EDITOR DANIEL CLIFTON
MARBLE FALLS — Colt Elementary School’s first STEAM day all started with a dairy cow named Dorothy.
On Feb. 7, the campus hosted 17 different STEAM-oriented presenters, including the cow. Assistant Principal Melissa Fletcher explained that the STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics) event was an opportunity for the students to hear from people who work in those fields.
“All the presenters are tying their talks into the curriculum as well, so the kids can see how what they’re learning in class is used by people in their jobs,” Fletcher said. “It’s a chance for (the students) to see what kind of jobs and careers involve STEAM.”
How did the dairy cow play a role?
“It kind of started with us trying to bring a dairy cow through a mobile dairy classroom to campus, and this was the day they could come,” said Principal Erica O’Connor about members of the Southwest Dairy Farmers Association, which has a mobile dairy classroom complete with dairy cow.
The principal, assistant principal, and campus staff decided to expand on that and invite other STEAM-related businesses to the half-day event. Before they knew it, STEAM Day was born.
Outside in the cold weather, Steven Branecky of the Southwest Dairy Farmers Association discussed aspects of the dairy business. He talked about the six main breeds of dairy cattle, and pointed out that the two most popular are the Holstein and the Jersey. He brought along Dorothy, a 3-year-old Jersey cow named after the lead protagonist in “The Wizard of Oz.”
“She’ll give me about four-and-a-half gallons of milk a day, but it has a lot of cream,” Branecky explained to the class of young students. He went over what cream is and how it is separated as well as the different products containing milk. He explained some of the science and technology used by dairy farmers and the dairy industry.
That all tied in to STEAM and other classroom lessons. Several presenters intentionally used vocabulary the students were learning to show how STEAM is used in the real world.
“(The presenters) have been great in they way they’re showing the kids how their jobs use many of the things we study in school,” O’Connor said.
You might not think cake baking is a STEAM-related field, but Lisa Hambrick of Lisa’s Cakery pointed out that if you want to see science in action, cook or bake something. Math is used when measuring and breaking down recipes.
“You bring together math, science, and art to make a cake,” Hambrick said.
And many of her cakes, intricately shaped into guitars and Minecraft creations, feature quite a bit of engineering.
She also hoped students would realize, though college is a worthy direction, there are a number of career options available to them that do not require them to travel that path. Though Hambrick has a college degree, it’s not related to baking. She began her career more than 16 years ago and created a vibrant, in-demand business.
The event also exposed students to new role models. No longer were these careers held by unknown people. Fletcher pointed out that the students now have a real person to connect with the jobs.
“They might see these people out in town or it sparks an idea of what (the students) can do,” she added.
While Becca Schafer of Becca Schafer Events and In Cahoots Catering and Events talked about how being a chef and caterer wove together many facets of STEAM, one of her best lessons might be how she started her own business six years ago. Instead of applying for a job, Schafer bet on herself, took stock of her previous experiences and skills, and started a career in catering. She didn’t wait for the “perfect” time; instead, she took a risk when a friend approached her about catering a 400-person, high-end event in January 2012.
“Friends asked me, ‘Do you know what you’re doing? This is a 400-person event,’” Schafer told the students. “‘No, not really, but I’m going to do it.’”
And she did.
In fact, Schafer told the students, she had to rent all the commercial kitchen gear along with a refrigerator truck and a tent that she set up on site to cook and cater. Schafer didn’t have access to a commercial kitchen, but she stepped out and took a chance and has since built a growing business. Now, Schafer has two businesses.
“The community members are incredible to come in and do this for our kids,” O’Connor said while pointing out that many gave up time at their businesses to participate in Colt’s STEAM event.
“As more people in the community find out about it, maybe they’ll want to come and present as well,” Fletcher added. “Maybe next year, we can make it an entire day.”
And imagine, it all started with a cow named Dorothy.