For a few hours on Wednesdays during the summer, families are encouraged to participate in science, technology, engineering and mathematics and take home a free book through Fort Loudoun Middle School’s Big Red Book Mobile.
The effort this year began May 22 and will take place at the Loudon Splash Pad and Pool to get more consistent foot traffic.
“We had a couple of times we went out to apartment complexes where we might have had one or two families and in some cases they were away but many cases they were down here either taking lessons or they were just down here spending the day at the pool,” Heather Watson, FLMS LAUNCH coordinator, said. “So we figured we’d come Wednesdays, the summer feeding program is from 12:30 to 1 (p.m.), so we thought we could combine with parents coming in they could walk by with their kids or they can come down when it’s time for lunch. Just kind of combine the two activities together.”
So far it appears to have worked, Jeana Gray, FLMS STEM teacher, said.
“I can tell you that there’s way more traffic today than there was last week,” Gray said. “When we would go out to the community, we would set up at the different apartment complexes it would depend on which complex we were at, but we wouldn’t have nearly this much traffic. So we came to where the kids are.”
Families walked up to the crates of books largely afforded through a grant and community donations. Some youth immediately found the book they wanted, while others took their time. Then-FLMS principal Christie Amburn secured a $1,200 grant last year to help purchase books.
Entering its third year, Watson hopes the book mobile helps youth maintain a thirst for reading and learning while school is out.
“With children it’s important to keep them up to a certain level so they don’t slide back,” she said. “Like up on the school on Tuesdays and Thursdays we’re having ... an academy for children who are identified who need extra math and extra reading support. So they can come on Tuesdays and Thursdays for free and we’ve got some learning games to support that math and those reading needs. Here we’re just trying to provide bubble gum for the brain. We want you to find something that you can read for fun. It’s not high tech.
“We’re going to be here every Wednesday,” she added. “If you don’t like the book, bring it back, we can swap it out, as well as giving them some sort of science activity that then the parents can take home.”
Activities could include engineering and design challenges, rocks and minerals, coding and 101 uses of duct tape, which Gray jokingly said has been a favorite. STEM backpacks are also available for weekly checkouts that include learning activities families can do at home.
Families played with bubbles and made bubble snakes at the pool.
“Every time we have an activity we try to make it STEM-based,” Gray said. “So here we’re comparing and contrasting homemade bubbles versus store-bought bubbles, and then the students get to make a bubble snake. So they’re comparing and contrasting the two types of bubbles. Every week we have a different activity, like last week we focused on circuits. ... We used snap circuits and the students — it’s a sixth-grade standard — are trying to make a simple or parallel circuit using snap circuits. So they’re making a fan work or a light bulb light up, something like that.
“... Anytime a student compares and contrasts, they’re seeing how things are similar and how they’re different,” she added. “So it engages their brain into thinking. It’s a thinking skill, and allows them to process things scientifically.”
The Big Red Book Mobile will meet 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. Wednesdays through July 17 at the Loudon pool.
“Anytime we try to involve literacy and science application and mesh them together,” Gray said. “So, for example, in every one of our STEM backpacks, there’s a literacy component of reading and writing to kind of grow the whole child and not just focus on one area. ... They’re learning in a fun way.”