Culturally-specific STEM videos help Washington County parents engage with their kids.

Learning STEMs From Understanding

Thursday, Jan. 20, 2022

Promoting wellness and growth in early education while living through unprecedented times has been a trying and difficult task for United Way of Columbia-Willamette’s team at Early Learning Washington County, but their ingenuity has been fruitful and unphased. Through a variety of creative measures, our team has continued to challenge and invigorate learning in the youth and parents they serve. One of the Early Learning Washington County strategies that proved especially beneficial during this pandemic was the creation of multiple Spanish and English language videos that holistically encouraged STEM learning in both parents and their kids. These videos were pitched, produced and promoted by parent leaders in the program; parents were compensated and given positions of leadership throughout the process. Early Learning Washington County invited parent leaders from their region to develop these videos with the purpose of providing parents an easy way to introduce STEM learning into their children’s at-home education, offering a pathway for both the parents and their bright, curious children to enjoy and invigorate their minds. 

“For parents, the process was a lesson in learning how to work together,” said Begona Rodriguez Liern, Director of Early Learning Washington County. “It was different work from being a parent or volunteering. They learned how to polish a script, how to flavor a video. You could see how they grew; their faces were all smiling and glowing.”

As the project took form, several parent leaders volunteered for positions throughout. The group’s Parent Advisory Council began brainstorming how to best create videos that used simple language to illuminate complex but graspable scientific concepts. Their consideration was not solely for the kids meant to learn from these videos, however, but also for the multicultural, multilingual group of parents who would work alongside their children to do the experiments and demonstrations included in the learning-focused videos. 

“I hope parents can use these videos to teach their kids that STEM is part of our everyday lives, and it is everywhere. I want parents to use these tools to support them and their kids while discovering new ways to explore the world around them,” said Zhulma Zarate, one of the parent leaders. “I would like that parents understand that you don’t have to be a scientist or engineer to teach kids how the world works, they just need passion, love, and desire to teach their kids.”

The passion was quickly evident to the Early Learning Washington team, as parents  worked alongside professional producers in a local studio to begin the process of filming. There was casting calls to be held, edits to the script to make and a lot of learning about how the film equipment worked, but before long the parents proved to be voracious learners themselves. In the end, producers, directors, actors, volunteers and a whole squad of engaged and interested parents collaborated, leaving us with eight professionally-produced, culturally sensitive STEM videos detailing engaging and enlightening activities for parents to do alongside their kids.

“Getting into the little Hollywood idea of acting, fixing and adapting the scrips, as well as filming to deliver the final product was very stressful because it was our first time,” said Luis Nava, another parent leader. “But, in the end, the satisfaction of seeing the protagonist’s faces was delightful, and the level of parent’s empowerment was unmeasurable.”

With success in their hearts, the parent leaders wrapped up this  project in one month, knowing they had done their best to help others in their region better understand how to teach and enjoy teaching STEM content. To many in the cohort producing these videos, seeing themselves and their communities represented was the most impactful and important part of the work they did. The thought that went behind each word and each project was centered in helping parents engage in and learn from content that was culturally-relevant to them, and made with them in mind.

“One of the biggest barriers is always the language,” Luis concluded. “Our parents can’t understand what the teachers and their own children are talking about when they are at home trying to do their homework… Having the curriculum in their own language is essential to ensure success. When the parents understand the product, its content, and the different ways it can be used and applied to our changing reality, they’ll feel like a superhero.”

Early Learning Washington County is now in the process of expanding their video offerings, hoping to produce more videos in more languages in 2022. Stay tuned to learn more, and watch through the videos embedded in this post to learn even more! 

"In the end, the satisfaction of seeing the protagonist’s faces was delightful, and the level of parent’s empowerment was unmeasurable.”

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