By Nick Colbert, Program Coordinator
WITS on the Weekend students from McCutcheon Elementary build polygons with their mentor.The WITS on the Weekend (WoW) program equips students to apply literacy skills through scientific inquiry and explorative learning. This past year, WITS hosted programs at Lozano Elementary, Walsh Elementary, and McCutcheon Elementary. In addition to individualized reading time with book choice, each WoW session includes a check-in activity, group activities, and the STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts, and Mathematics) project for the day. Since the program takes place on Saturdays, WoW affords more time for volunteers and students to expand their knowledge and work together on problem solving techniques.
With an emphasis on STEAM related books, WoW shifts student’s focus to topics concentrated to the weekend’s theme project. This past year, projects included: learning about gravity and inertia through paint pendulums; creating 3D polygons to examine faces, vertices, and edges; and calculating the effects of natural disasters. Students also created rain sticks, experimented with electric conductivity, chemical reactions with acids and bases to blow up balloons. Students even extracted DNA from cheek cells and examined the strands.
As part of WITS tradition, at the end of the school year students were given books to take home for their personal libra. Students were gifted with texts such as States of Matter with Max Axiom by Agnieszka Biskup, National Geographic: Extreme Weather by Thomas M. Kostigen, National Geographic: Skyscrapers by Libby Romero, National Geographic: Ancient Egypt by Stephanie Warren Drimmer, and The Templeton Twins: Have an Idea by Ellis Weiner and Jeremy Holmes.
A distinctive quality of WoW is that it is one of thre WITS programs that connects community volunteers to a school, the other two being WITSK and Early Childhood Summer Program/. Every year, WITS partners with the Museum of Science and Industry, where supplies and interesting lesson plans are donated for program use. One of our students favorite things about WoW are the field trips. WITS took WoW students, parents, and mentors on three field trips during the program year. First, the students went to the Museum of Science and Industry for the “Christmas Around the World” exhibit, which featured decorated Christmas trees reflective of the many diverse cultural traditions. On the second trip, the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) provided artistic demonstrations on wood, metal, 3d printing. WoW’s final program session was a scavenger hunt trip in Millennium Park and day of play at Maggie Daley Park.
From STEAM related books and experiments to exploratory field trips, WoW students discover the world in new ways. WITS on the Weekend delivers opportunities for students to engage and apply subjects learned in school to the real world.