Newport News Public Schools Family and Community Engagement Specialists hosted the 2018 Family Festival at the Discovery STEM Academy in downtown Newport News. Students in grades pre-kindergarten through fifth grade were eligible to attend the four-hour event, which was divided into different zones based on the grade or school subject. 

In addition to the different programs like the Health and Physical Education zone and the Technology zone, there were also the Art and Music zone, the Poetry zone, and other exhibits. Jeremy Wall, a Family and Community Engagement (F.A.C.E.) Specialist organized the entire event, which included dozens of volunteers, a guest performance from a local high school dance team, food trucks and even a magician!

Rosalie Rodriguez, WHRO's Education Specialist, traveled with WHRO's Educational STEM van, a interactive van known throughout the Hampton Roads community for visiting schools and providing children with the opportunity to participate in different STEM based activities. Rodriguez was one of a handful of vendors providing exhibits, including but not limited to: the Newport News Public Library, the Scrap Exchange and the Hidenwood Parent Teacher Association.

With the help of a couple volunteers, she set up the WHRO table in the school cafeteria and filled it with Dr. Suess activity sheets, PBS Kids fun activity books, Splash and Bubbles flyers, and even a touch screen monitor which featured two interactive books: Martha Speaks and the Tale of Two Soup Cans. In addition, she promoted the PBS Kids Writer's Contest, a WHRO sponsored event that encourages children to write and illustrate their own stories, a raffle for a Playtime Pad, a child safe tablet with 25 pre-installed games and 120 PBS Kids video clips, songs, and music videos, and even provided the attendees with a challenge and a super challenge featuring the "Odd Squad". Rodriguez even displayed Dr. Suess books and the famous red and white striped 'Cat in the Hat' hat. 

About 800 students visited WHRO's table. Many students entered in the raffle, used the touch screen monitor or Ipad, featuring a Wild Kratts interactive app, and even took a couple flyers. But most of all, the kids accepted WHRO's STEM challenge: using the materials provided, create a tool that can be used to help WHRO's tower connect to the PBS Kids tower. They got bonus points if they named their tool and explained how it works. The goal was to get students to use their critical thinking skills and pretend to be engineers. Soon the table was scattered with broken crayons, different sized pom-poms, colorful pipe cleaners, popsicle sticks, pony beads, white index cards, pieces of tape, and strands of glue.

Because of WHRO's participation in the event, two F.A.C.E. specialists, including Val Wolfe from Lee Hall Elementary and Sanford Elementary schools, invited WHRO to visit their schools and be present at future education-related events. Another F.A.C.E. specialist, Keenan Bratten, representing Sedgefield STEM Academy, also offered to collaborate with Rodriguez, at a later date.

Stay tuned for updates about future STEM related events in the Hampton Roads area.