LA GRANDE — The Eastern Oregon University football team partnered with the Greater Oregon STEM Hub to put together activity boxes for fourth-grade students in Union, Grant, Harney, Wallowa, Baker, Umatilla and Morrow counties, many of whom are participating in distance learning due to the pandemic.
The Oregon Community Foundation granted GO STEM $19,950 to put together kits for every fourth-grade student in the region. The EOU student-athletes on Saturday, Oct. 31, put together 2,000 kits focused on science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
“Our coach set up a community service event, and I saw I was scheduled for 10 a.m.,” EOU football player Dillon Holliday said. “When I got there, things were already moving pretty fast. Within five minutes I got to work. My job was putting pamphlets in the kits. Another guy was putting in a snack, and another put in more papers and instructions. By the end of our shift volunteering, we got a couple hundred boxes done with just our group.”
Student-athletes are required to work community service hours, and according to EOU spokesperson Vicky Hart, the football team is known for being involved in service activities.
“We hold ourself to a high standard,” Holliday said. “The community supports us a lot, so we should be supporting the community too.”
The boxes contain one of three kits created by Pitsco Education, a company that specializes in engineering education for kindergarten through 12th grade. Kits had a sail car to learn about wind energy, paper straws and pipe cleaners for building a straw structure or a parachute-making kit. GO STEM Executive Director David Melville said fourth graders will receive the kits because this grade has been the most vulnerable to falling behind through online education.
“Most schools have welcomed students back up to third grade, which means these fourth-grade students are still vulnerable to missing STEM opportunities in a virtual classroom,” Melville said.
The boxes also included a granola bar and goldfish crackers as a snack, because students who are learning from home may not have access to food as much as they had in school, according to Melville.
He said giving students access to science, technology, engineering and math projects and concepts at an early age is important because it can set a child up for success. Because COVID-19 and virtual learning has limited some STEM education, the kits they have put together can provide opportunities to expand learning.
“This is something the students can do at home and with their families,” Melville said.