In the wake of a global pandemic that required students to do much of their learning from home in front of a screen, hands-on experiences that spark joy and discovery are more relevant—and needed—than ever.  Long before 2020, however, RAFT (Resource Area for Teaching) was on a mission to help educators and parents in Santa Clara County and beyond transform learning experiences for students. Since 1994, this non-profit organization has sought to inspire the next generation of innovators, problem solvers, and creators by providing hands-on STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math) learning resources including recycled and low-cost materials, STEAM Project Kits, and makerspace support. RAFT has also provided professional development workshops for over 8,000 educators and their 150,000 students in the San Francisco Bay Area and nationwide.

This year, RAFT partnered with two other local area non-profits, Acterra and Ignited, through the Transportation EVolved campaign funded by a grant from Electrify America. This partnership has allowed RAFT to leverage these resources and connections providing a through-line from classroom investigations to real world applications. They were able to expand their STEAM offerings to include electric vehicle (EV) and renewable energy related concepts promoting environmental awareness and literacy, a highly relevant and critically important topic for students.


Specifically, the funding allowed RAFT to create three brand new hands-on STEAM classroom activity kits—The Platform Car, The Electric Wind Generator, and Wind-O-Meter (anemometer)—exploring power generation from renewable energy sources and science concepts such as energy transfers, potential and kinetic energy, velocity, mass, and momentum. 

Through this grant, RAFT has been able to provide these kits completely free of charge to qualifying educators! The campaign has also enabled RAFT to reach more teachers and a wider range of grade levels, and to supplement the kits with aligned lesson plans via the Transportation EVolved Toolkit, a compilation of free electric vehicle lessons, resources, and programs available to teachers, created by Ignited.

“The Platform Car” kit, for example, allows students to investigate EV-adjacent concepts like motion, energy, mass, and momentum by creating a car built entirely of upcycled CDs and surplus plastic signs. This STEAM kit is a great example of RAFT’s concept of “found engineering.” Found engineering is a uniquely RAFT process of discovering or inventing new ways to repurpose “found” items into hands-on learning activities. This concept was inspired by the variety of materials donated to RAFT which could be combined and repurposed to enhance student learning and engagement. The accompanying Lesson Plan from Ignited Toolkit takes learning beyond the kit to include career awareness and alignment with NGSS standards. 


For teachers not yet ready to tackle one of these kits on their own, RAFT can also bring the kits to you! RAFTs fully electric Mobile Maker Van comes equipped with all the tools, materials, and staff support to deliver their unique programming as a classroom extension. It aims specifically to serve under-resourced schools in an effort to close the equity gap by providing high-quality training and learning materials. RAFT can also bring the van to community events like STEAM Showcases or family STEAM nights and provides the STEAM learning kits, design challenge materials, and support staff to engage all participants in hands-on STEAM activities.

Ready to receive one of your EV-related STEAM kits? Sign up to receive a kit here. Be sure to download one or more of the accompanying lesson plans here, and learn more about bringing the Mobile Maker Van to your school by contacting RAFTs Education team at Together, we can move away from screens toward more hands-on STEAM learning.