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Part II: Inspire Adventures

Orange County S.T.E.A.M. Inspiration Park Days & the OC Imaginology S.T.E.A.M. Fair

Based on all of my experience with the OC Imaginology fair (detailed in the first blog post in this series), I decided to host Imaginology Project Build Days for Inspire families. I wanted to create a simple, fun way for families to participate in this fair for the first time, or for families participating in the fair a subsequent time, to have a community to enjoy creating projects with. I figured if I was the one responsible for coming up with the supplies, as well as hosting the setup and clean-up somewhere, then that would make it easy for families to simply focus on getting their children to these events. :)

When considering a location for this event, I remembered, as a homeschooling mom, that sometimes kids need breaks between building. I And that sometimes younger siblings need somewhere safe to play to give parents a chance to help their older student create a project. So, I chose Tewinkle Park in Costa Mesa, a clean and well-designed community park, situated behind the OC Fair.

TeWinkle Park is a well-known and liked park--for good reasons. Its main playground, Angel’s Playground, is a universally accessible playground, with modern play equipment and swings. Clean restrooms are right next to the playground, and the entire playground area is surrounded by well-maintained grass and a combination of mature and petite trees. There is ample, close parking, another necessity for busy parents. This park also has a unique charm and aesthetic. Up against the border of the park, close to the playground, there is an interesting cluster of boulders that always invokes visions of the English countryside, in my imagination. These boulders are fun and easy to climb, and lead up to a shady trail that follows a small, tree-lined stream, which is home to ducks and turtles all year long. At another point, separate from the boulder area, there is a grassy slope that comes down from the trail, in a gentle angle. This slope appeals to kids, offering them the old-fashioned type of play experience hard to find in our modern world; the act of of running or rolling down a soft, grassy hill.

TeWinkle park felt like the perfect park to host my OC Fair Imaginology S.T.E.A.M. Inspiration Park project build days at, because even if the project building didn’t appeal to a child, the park would most likely capture their attention in some way, and at the very least, get everyone outside for a little while. The act of getting outside can be a complicated task even for homeschool families, with our own uniquely, busy schedules. But it is almost always a rewarding one, no matter the outcome of the activity. I hardly ever hear anyone bemoan the fact that they spent an hour or two at a pretty park, outside, with other homeschoolers to keep them company. :)

I hosted our four weekly project build events at the picnic shelter near the playground, which has six tables inside it. I chose 3 projects from the OC Fair Imaginology Competition Guide that could be completed as group projects (2 or more students working on the project together), and that seemed simple and fun enough to complete in 2 hours at the park.

My next step was gathering the supplies for each project build. Cardboard Engineering seemed simple enough. I supplies from the $.99 Only Store, such as cardboard potting trays and posterboard. The store manager, who asked what I was purchasing so many potting trays for, got excited when she learned about our project build for the day, and that I was buying this for a school to do, so she donated some cardboard boxes and big cardboard displays (which the kids used later to slide down the grassy hill on). I love it when our educational journey inspires others. :) I purchased paintbrushes and wood glue from Home Depot. And I used the big box of craft supplies I use for my own children, and our homeschooling crafting adventures. It’s full of stickers, pipe cleaners, beads, clay, etc.- all kinds of fun things I’ve collected in my crafting adventures.

Kinetic Art (Mobiles) was the next week’s theme. Another visit to the $.99 Only Store for wire hangers, ribbon and foam decorations, helped supply the second project build day.

The third project build day was Upcycle It! This was a little trickier, since each student needed to bring things from home to complete. By this time, some children were committed to their cardboard and/or kinetic art projects, and were simply using this time to work on those. But through email communications with registered attendees, I was able to help people prepare to bring some unique items from home to work on. The simplest idea, a spray cleaning bottle, ended up becoming our most elaborate Upcycle It! Entry, and garnering fair notice, winning its creator, one of our Inspire students, a blue ribbon.

The last and final project day, resulted in some big projects being completed, as well as some new projects from all three categories being designed. Each Inspiration S.T.E.A.M. Park day brought in new families, designing new projects. I was very encouraged, seeing the need that families have for community events based around fun activities and kinesthetic learning together. It was a highlight of my week to join our families at the park, hosting these fun, creative events.

I also invited vendors to join us, to bring their own supplies that they wanted to share, to help us get Inspired, and also so we could learn more about their programs. Aloha Mind Math of Tustin and Irvine, attended all four events and helped us create some S.T.E.A.M. cardboard cars. Jeremy Hohn, one the teachers from BEE Bixby, one of our Inspire Specialty Programs, came by on our Kinetic Art build day and helped us work on building some mobiles. We also had Inspire teachers and staff in attendance! It was truly a great park day series!

At the conclusion of the series, each family had produced a project for submission. They registered the projects online, with the OC Fair Imaginology staff --who graciously helped extend the registration deadline for our families when there was some confusion about how to register for the submissions (as a group or individually?) The OC Fair Imaginology staff helped Inspire families register as a school but have the ability to drop off and pick up their projects individually. Families then came to the OC Fair Imaginology over the three day weekend, during the times that worked for them, often bringing people with them; parents, siblings, grandparents, as well as friends. They enjoyed viewing their entries as well as participating in all that the fair had to offer! Many of them stopped by the Inspire booth to say hello to me, and our fellow teachers, and to let us know how well they did. One of our teacher’s own children won a division award for his cardboard engineering project he created at our park day!

I have created a picture for each of the build days, because I believe the pictures speak more than my words can.

Here is the flyer for our park day events. This was up on Inspiration Station, so families could sign up there, for each park day series. There were four different project builds in total, all free to participate in:

March 3rd: Cardboard Engineering

March 10th: Kinetic Art (Mobiles)

March 17th: Upcycle It!

March 24th: Kinetic Art and Cardboard Engineering Part II, as well as our Project Completion Day

Paige McKinney is an Inspire Family Liaison serving the Orange County area.

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