Dreamstarter Teacher Ceriss Blackwood of Ignacio, Colorado, is a 1st-3rd grade teacher at the Southern Ute Indian Montessori Academy (SUIMA), part of the Southern Ute Indian Tribe school district, which emphasizes tribal culture and language and places a high value on lifelong learning.
Ceriss used her grant to begin an afterschool STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, ARTS and Math) Club, specifically through involving her students with solar energy through project-based learning.
With her $1,000 Dreamstarter Teacher grant, she purchased a solar rover kit, solar robot kits, solar system set, classroom Crayola set, classroom glue set, classroom elementary journal set, classroom trifold board set, and solar system and green energy books.
“Every single student was excited about this, and the parents loved the projects,” Ceriss reported.
More than two dozen students built solar cars and solar robots as they learned about green energy and geometry.
“The students’ and their parents’ level of enthusiasm was outstanding,” she said. “When we raced the projects, the kids were excited. They happily took photos and enjoyed both projects.
“The fact that I could ask them questions about solar power verses fossil fuels in front of the principal and they could answer, was a huge success for them.”
She noted that parental involved was increased due to lessons being extended at home, and as the children showed off their projects to the family members.
Ceriss added that students on the reservation do have a lot of interest STEAM projects.
One boy, she described as “really shy,” took his robot home to show his father who shared in his son’s excitement.
As the student likes to play “a lot of video games,” his family was happy to see him show an interest in the robotics project.
“He likes Minecraft, but this was a hands-on activity that he loved,” she said. “He even showed his little sister – and let her use the solar robot.”
In sum, Ceriss accomplished what she had hoped, and more.
“I wanted this to be fun, engaging and knowledgeable. We accomplished this and I am keeping with the momentum and going into chemistry this fall.
“I greatly appreciate the opportunity Running Strong for American Indian Youth® gave our school – to jump start STEAM learning.”