STEM takes many forms in Clover Park


Students in Clover Park have a world of options available to them as they look to explore future careers in STEM fields. From classroom offerings to extended-day science programs, a wealth of new experiences await the curious and scientifically inclined at all levels of education.

Multiculturalism and STEM

Pursuing a career in STEM is challenging no matter your background. It’s especially intimidating for students coming from a community that is underrepresented in the field. Lochburn Middle School wants its students to know they’re not alone.

Lochburn science teacher Yasmine Shakoor-Asadi recently took a group of students to the University of Washington to meet with science majors, tour some of the school’s labs and visit the multicultural center.

“I wanted them to learn what it looks like for underprivileged students to go to a university and how their experience may differ from someone else,” Shakoor-Asadi said. “They also got to see that there are communities within the university to help them be successful.”

Shakoor-Asadi is planning to take a group of students to the Future of Flight museum and on a tour of The Boeing Company in March. In the meantime, Lochburn students interested in STEM meet once a week after school to learn more about science.

“Kids are kind of afraid of science and this is a way for them to get more familiar with it and more comfortable with things that aren’t just ELA and social studies,” Shakoor-Asadi said.

Engineering for earthquakes and hurricanes

Natural disasters are a common occurrence at Beachwood Elementary this year. Hurricanes blast homes and earthquakes shake structures to the ground. All the while, students work together to make the buildings safer and more able to withstand the chaotic conditions.

All of this happens weekly during the school’s extended-day science program. Focused on third-through-fifth graders, the after-school program promotes critical thinking and collaboration while teaching students basic engineering concepts.

“These are skills they will take with them going forward in school and in life,” said science teacher Shelby Hill. “It helps them think about career opportunities in the future — they can look into being an architect or a civil engineer.”

Before winter break, extended-day students were challenged to build houses out of three materials: index cards, popsicle sticks and straws. Then, a fan, which simulated three levels of wind speeds, came in and knocked them all down.

“At the end of the lesson, we had students saying ‘that was the best science lesson ever,’” Hill said. “They were engaged and able to share their experiences because some of them have lived in areas where there were hurricane winds.”

Intro to forensics

When you walk into Gretchen Williams’ classroom at Clover Park High School, don’t be shocked to see a cadaver laying on the floor. That probably just means it’s finals week.

It’s not a real cadaver, of course, but a $40 mannequin purchased off Amazon. The lifelike plastic human helps provide a sense of realism to Williams’ forensics technology class. Students test blood samples, take photos and write reports about a simulated crime scene.

Williams, who has worked as a reserve deputy for the Thurston County coroner’s office, likes to provide as much authenticity to her students as possible. She bases her lessons on real-life cases and goes deep on the most current techniques pathologists and coroners use.

“Basically, everyone’s experience is through watching CSI, which is a little bit different,” Williams said. “I’m trying to give them the reality and teach them the chemistry. I want to get them into the door because they’re interested in forensics but then get them hooked on the real science.”

Salmon in the classroom

Four Clover Park schools have new friends swimming around the classroom this winter. Park Lodge and Carter Lake elementary schools and Lakes and Clover Park high schools are participating in the Salmon in the Schools program.

Classrooms in each school were provided with salmon eggs to keep in a big water tank. Students will chart the development of the salmon as they go from embryos to full-grown fish. In the spring, students will take their new friends to the river and release them into the wild.

“The project addresses some of our science standards, but I also think it’s great because salmon are a really big part of the culture of the Puget Sound region,” said Don Pruett, supervisor of science. “I think this really helps students engage in seeing science processes up close.”

The project gives students hands-on experience with life cycles, water quality and understanding data. Before releasing the salmon back into the river, students will need to ensure the water quality in the tanks is continually at the right temperature and pH level.