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CAP AE programs help Michigan AEM Eureka McCormick guide fifth-graders

Posted on June 15, 2020 at 12:08 PM by Virginia Smith

Girls Who Code Club
Eureka McCormick teaches fifth graders in Michigan. She is also coach of the school's Girls Who Code Club.

June 15, 2020

Eureka McCormick has been an AEM for less than two years, but she has used the CAP Aerospace Education materials to help her lead her fifth-graders, to help guide a Girls Who Code group and to recruit other teachers in other schools to be AEMs. With her nomination, two of her Swartz Creek, Michigan, students, Brooklynn Shortt and Isabel Kaul, recently were named ACE Students of the Year for 2019-2020. "In our fifth-grade class, we focus on helping each other," she says. "We believe in providing a caring environment where our differences are our strengths!" Michigan Wing Director of Aerospace Education Maj. Mike Seiloff calls her a "Michigan Wing AEM Superstar." We asked her some questions, and her answers are below.  
Tell us about your school and the grades you teach? 

We are a hard-working class of fifth-graders! These students are middle-grade students. Syring is a small school nestled in a quiet neighborhood in the heart of our Swartz Creek. We see this as a strength because our students build bonds with each other because a lot of the students walk to school together. Safety guards are positioned at key corners to help the students get to school safely. A lot of times we have the same students from preschool through fifth grade; so, our teachers really get to bond with our students. We have a school full of eager and motivated leaders in learning!

We instill the values of learning and growing together with each of our students. In our fifth-grade class, we focus on helping each other. We believe in providing a caring environment where our differences are our strengths! We know each other like family and support each other! We foster positive character traits such as acceptance, integrity, perseverance and support. We work together so that we all learn and grow.

How many years have you been an educator?

I have been an educator for 15 years. I have only taught in Swartz Creek Community School district. Throughout my career, I have received several scholarships and grants. With her nomination, two of her students, Brooklynn Shortt and Isabel Kaul, were named Aerospace Connections in Education Students of the Year.

How long have you been a member of Civil Air Patrol and how did you get involved in the AEM Program?

I found out about the Civil Air Patrol AEM program when I attended a teacher conference in the summer of 2018. I became a member in December 2018.

Please describe the Civil Air Patrol programs you participate in and why you participate. What benefits do your students get from the CAP programs you use?

Participants in the ACE program are provided with the opportunity to have access to quality tools that supplement/enhance the learning of all children! I believe all of my students have benefited from using the STEM kits that Civil Air Patrol provides. STEM kits are useful in order to help my students strengthen the skills that are necessary for future growth in learning. I focus on getting my students to learn coding because students need practice coding in order to get  BETTER at coding. Coding helps improve logical thinking skills, computational skills, collaboration skills and other academic skills and soft skills. I start off the year by having the students learn the basics of coding on Students use what they have learned to code on and use the Sphero that we receive in the CAP STEM Kit Program. In the spring, students get to practice what they learned by flying the quadcopters that are  provided in the quadcopter STEM kit!

You have been a strong ambassador for CAP's AEM Program. Can you elaborate on how you have helped spread the word on CAP's AE program? 

I went to a few schools and after-school centers and shared information about the AEM program. I even brought some of our STEM Kits so people can see what they could get and try them out. I discussed how I use the STEM kits and shared pictures of my students using the STEM kits. Last year, I was on a mission to inform as many teachers as I could about the benefits of becoming an AEM. I also passed out fliers and guided people to go to the AEM website to sign up on the spot. I shared about being an AEM during all of the teacher workshops that I attended last year.

Tell us about how CAP's STEM Kits helped you start a Girls Who Code program at your school.

Before I begin talking about the Girls Who Code Club I would like to say that I ended up having a partner to help me teach the girls to code this year, Madeline Lobdell. My fellow coach was a former student of mine! She was my student when she was in fourth grade and is now in her twenties.  She came back to visit in November and wanted to volunteer to help coach the girls with me this year. I always tell my new students every fall I will be their teacher for life. I will care about them for life and they will become my family. Because Ms. Lobdell came back as a young adult to help, the students were able to see that "yes, my word is my bond." I care about my students forever. We had 14 girls (mostly fifth-graders but three fourth-graders) in the girls coding club. 

Why did you start this program for girls?

We start the year off using the CAP Sphero STEM kits as an introduction to coding for all students. I then have our Girls Coding Club start in November as an after school program on Mondays and as an in school lunchtime club for those girls who are unable to attend the after school program. Girls Who Code is a corporation that sponsors Girls Coding Clubs. I continue to seek opportunities to advance my students knowledge and growth and learning in the areas of STEM with a focus on computer science. I look for sponsors for my various groups. One of our sponsors is the Girls Who Code organization. One of the rules of their sponsorship involves having a girls-only coding club. Studies show that girls need opportunities for learning coding, and it is often more beneficial if the mentor is a female. I currently provide extra coding opportunities for only girls. Sometimes girls benefit from having the opportunity to explore coding in a smaller girls-only environment. I want these students to get a fair advantage at being immersed in coding prior to going to middle school to thrive and continue to strengthen their skills. I am hoping that I plant the seed of success to carry them into middle school and continue to use their coding skills on their educational journey.
We also were in the process of starting a boys coding club in March just before COVID impacted our schools. All students continued to use the stem kits on Fridays as an afternoon coding reinforcement session and exploration session.

Please describe how the current stay-at-home restrictions have changed how you do your job.

COVID-19 impacted everyone’s learning, making it difficult for the class to use the hands-on tools. We asked the girls if they would still want to continue with coding club once we knew school was going to be closing early. Several expressed an interest in continuing the coding. We continued to code with the girls online using Zoom. We used CsFirst because they had some lessons in the program that we found to be doable, and I had used CSFirst in the past with other students. We assigned activities for the girls to do using Google classroom and we would meet on Zoom to talk about the activities and give an overview of what the objectives were for the day. We would allow the girls time to work on their projects while we were in the Zoom session. Each week when we met on Zoom, we would ask the girls who would like to share their progress so far, and we would turn over sharing the screen capability to the students and let them talk about their project. Eventually, I delivered some of the tech tools to the girls so that they can continue their quest. The girls were in a coding contest and two of our five teams advanced to round two so they needed their materials. Throughout the summer the girls meet on Thursdays at the home of one of the team captain’s so they can continue working on the quest. As their coding coaches, our goal is to meet with them on Zoom on Mondays to monitor their progress. I absolutely love the fact that we started a Girls Who Code group because this gave us a lot of time to really bond with our girls and to really be role models for them and mentors. I know this because these girls are continuing their desire to learn coding over the summer. We would not have been able to do these had it not been for this program. We use the STEM kits to capture the students' interests, and then we turn the learning over to them so that they can guide their learning.

What is the best advice you have for a new AEM working with CAP programs and materials?

I highly recommend that all teachers use the materials. No matter what you do, students will be engaged. Students will want to use the materials; so, don’t be afraid to let them guide their learning!

Please share a rewarding experience you have had working with using CAP programs

I enjoy watching my students learn and grow throughout the year! I can tell you that the students were pretty excited to fly the CAP Quadcopter STEM Kits. We received the drones about two weeks before we had to shut down school for the year. 

Students work with quadcopters
Eureka McCormick's students work with CAP STEM Kits.




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