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West Jordan Journal

Columbia creates lands of learning for STEAM night

May 03, 2019 11:03AM ● By Jet Burnham

Amy Price and her son Aiden help make group decisions in a spacecraft simulation in Columbia Elementary’s InfiniD lab. (Jet Burnham/City Journals)

By Jet Burnham | [email protected]

STEAM Night transformed Columbia Elementary into six lands of learning. Elaborately decorated hallways welcomed families into each new land. 

In Water Land, hallways became waterways with blue plastic tablecloths draped over from the ceilings and blue streamers running down the walls. A bubble machine drew to activities such as a sink or float sensory experience and an obstacle course.

Parents and students made “junk boats” out of water bottles, toilet paper rolls, rubber bands and boxes of various sizes, which they then tested to see if they would float.

“It’s been fun to see all the parents and kids working together,” said Tammy Struthers, a first-grade teacher. “All the parents are actually engaged with their kids, which is really cool.”

Butcher paper jungle vines hung in Adventure Land where the focus was engineering activities. Ulysses Rodriguez, a second-grader, spent the majority of his there, building objects out of marshmallows and toothpicks. 

“He’s going to be an engineer someday, I just know it,” said Teresa Gomez, his teacher. 

Students built a variety of structures—towers, bridges, tents, people, jewelry—while applying engineering principals.

“There’s a lot of learning going on even though it looks like playing,” said Gomez. “I have students figuring out that using toothpicks diagonally can help make a structure more sound versus just building a square, which they all start off with.”

Colored squares dotted the floors that to the colorful hallways of Candy Land and activities such as Fizzy Science, States of Matter, Candy Mazes and Tessellation Art.

Kindergartener EmiLee Letcher was thrilled to play with candy. Her mother, Crystal Letcher, said the school activity was a good way to spark her daughter’s interest in STEAM topics. 

In Astroland, students played with remote-control robots and waited in line for a chance to complete a space mission in the InfiniD mobile lab.

Families who visited Imagination Land made popsicle-stick launchers

In Magic Land, University of Utah students, dressed in top hats and capes, dazzled families with science experiments about ocean acidification, plasma balls, magnets, oobleck (slime) and liquid nitrogen.

Rebekah Maxwell shrieked with joy when she saw strands of DNA separate from the strawberries she’d mashed with various liquids. 

Each section of Columbia Elementary was decorated to fit the theme of the land. (Jet Burnham/City Journals)


“I feel like a real scientist—I’m saving strawberry DNA!” crowed the third-grader.

Other students were dazzled by the experiments that used liquid nitrogen. When they popped frozen bits of cereal into their mouths, their body temperature quickly evaporated the cold air into puffs of white vapor that shot out of their mouths and noses.

U of U student Madi Walker showed students how to make batteries out of a potato, cucumber, lemon and apple.

“They thought it was the coolest thing ever,” she said. “They did not believe that a battery can be made from stuff that they eat.”

Walker, who is majoring in chemistry and plans to apply for medical school, said she remembers a lot of science demonstrations in her elementary school that exposed her to and got her excited about science.

Columbia students regularly engage in science activities with certified teacher science specialist Cara Hagman. The goal of STEAM Night was to engage kids in STEM learning that involved their families, as well.

Sponsors for STEAM Night included the Utah STEM Action Center, Columbia Elementary’s PTA, Jordan Education Fund, Loose in the Lab, University of Utah, and InfiniD as well as faculty members.

“This is a whole team effort,” said Sandy King, chair for the event. “We had our STEM committee, but then teachers throughout the whole school just put in so much love and care into just making it fun for kids. We have a great principal who’s building a culture of fun.”