The Kid’s Science Café is an afterschool program in the Village of Magdalena, New Mexico. Our instructional practices are research-based lessons to encourage a self-paced focus on Discovery, Practical Exercise, and Experiential Learning Methodologies.
How the Kid’s Science Café started
In late July of 2018, the Mayor of Magdalena approached me with a desire to establish a place for Village Youth to assemble. After a bit of a conference, and with the help of two additional teachers, we came across an idea to foster Science and Engineering for our small community. We established an LLC through New Mexico State, which would later become the Non-Profit known as the Kids’ Science Café (83-4056590)—a place where you go to order a desire, a dream, or perhaps a career. We had our Open House in October of 2018 with our first set of classes in December 2018.
Our small, rural community hosts approximately 1,000 residents, where the primary way of life is ranching. We have no theater, community swimming pool, or even a grocery store. Generational poverty is common. The Magdalena school (PreK-12) is the largest employer, followed by the US Forest Service. The school is a title 1, free breakfast and lunch for the 300 enrolled students. Classes are conducted Monday through Thursday (4-day week), which allowed me to consider volunteering my Fridays towards conducting a 6-hour educational format science-based curriculum.
The Village provides us a spacious residence hall to conduct instruction and activities from and the latitude to build on (we are in the process of building the first, youth-centered, Astronomical Observatory in honor of Dr. Klinglesmith—AstroPhysisist). Community (parental) support has been nothing short of substantial. We do not have internet service as yet but are developing an internet site and currently have a weekly post on Facebook regarding activities of the week.
What a difference a year makes!
One year after that first class, we now have multiple instructors and mentors at the Kids’ Science Café. All are certified teachers with diverse backgrounds in Literacy, Science, and Engineering and up-to-date background checks. While our activities are still developing, we currently have the equipment to support the following:
- Biology: microscopes, life cycles, aquariums
- Engineering: electrical, structural, chemical
- Physics: rocketry, aircraft simulators, remote control aircraft, buoyancy, hydraulics
- Astronomy: telescopes, telescope cameras, observatory dome
- Earth Science: geology, earthquakes, and meteorology
- In the works - Technology: robotics and coding with Audrino and Raspberry Pi instructional and hardware assets.
We do have other activities that we throw into the mix that includes art. Materials are available to support painting, pottery, bracelet and necklace making. We also have kids learning photography.
AcuRite runs our Meteorology Program
We have experimented with a couple of lessons to date and posted those on our Facebook page. I conducted a weather lesson on the Water Cycle, which of course, feeds weather processes and the water cycle. These activities included other equipment and sensors that produced real-time tracking of change in weather variables (such as temperature and humidity). The next weather experiment we have planned is looking and wind vanes and learning about wind. Additionally, our new wireless weather station, the AcuRite Atlas™, we are looking at solar data, like UV index and light intensity, and the kids log sunrise and sunset in their engineering notebooks. They have also looked at the memory on the display. Once we do get internet, we will be able to set up the AcuRite Access™ and track all of our weather data through My AcuRite for the kids to refer to as part of “their day.”
On another note, I am (reportedly) the only elementary teacher in the state that teaches 4th and 5th graders how to build, launch and retrieve high altitude balloons. Although helium has become expensive, I desire to conduct launches out of our facility. As a part of our system, we get all the usual positioning reports (via Ham radio and GPS) but also take video and stills, track direction, speed, temperature, pressure as part of a flight log. I hope to use these launches to launch a stratospheric weather study.
Teachers, share your ideas!
Share your weather lesson plans and weather curriculum in the comments below! What are your students tracking and monitoring with your school weather station?