The Virtual STEAM Night at Lagunita Elementary School (Salinas, CA) held on Thursday March 4, 2021 was a really great event! Nearly 100 families participated in a 1-hour STEAM lesson focused on RAFT’s Car on a Roll STEAM project kit. Students assembled the cars prior to the session and investigated different phenomena during the session, co-facilitated by William Franzell from Monterey County Office of Education and Eric Welker from RAFT. Other staff members from Lagunita that attended and assisted were Denise Hampson (kindergarten teacher), Melissa Nakamura (7th/8th teacher), and the principal/superintendent, Daniel Stonebloom.

Parents and students engaged in a brief “mindset hack” where they shared recent successes and/or challenges as an ice breaker. The chat stream grew very quickly as people continued to share their thoughts. Eric provided a brief overview of RAFT as both a teacher and family educational support, discussing the general STEAM concepts and purpose behind RAFT kits as well as RAFT’s mission.

Source: Phenomena for NGSS

The students ranged from grades K-8 and all had a STEAM notebook ready to record their learning. They engaged with a GIF of a truck (see above) headed for a pole and wrote predictions for what they believed would happen if it continued moving forward. Responses were shared in the chat, one example of which was “…the truck will be crushed!” Will Franzell and Eric used a strategy they called the “Phenomena Cam” where Will held his car in front of his camera while students put suggestions for what he could try to explore with the car. Eric read some student suggestions from the chat stream and Will did them, modeling for students the type of exploration and learning fostered by Car on a Roll.

Next, Mr. Stonebloom put students into breakout rooms by grade level (K-2, 3-5, 6-8). Each grade level used the cars to answer guiding questions aligned to NGSS. For example, the K-2 group’s questions were: 1) What happens when you push or pull on an object? 2) How can you make an object move faster or in a different direction? Students in each room made claims about what they noticed and then provided evidence, either by demonstrating on camera or in the chat, to support their claims. They also shared the reasoning for how the evidence supported the claims.

Families were introduced to different resources to continue the learning process at home. One resource containing interactive simulations allowed students and parents to make predictions about forces in a tug of war scenario, relating to the force lesson with Car on a Roll. Another physical science resource shared was PBS Learning Media. Will shared several resources available through MCOE and Eric shared a resource page from RAFT, calling out STEAM Kits, Learning Activity Sheets, and Summer Camps as family-oriented resources that can build on the STEAM Night.

The most inspirational part of the evening was the students’ reflection on what they learned by using Car on a Roll and the info shared by the facilitators. Students learned and used great vocabulary (examples: magnitude, movement, forces, collisions, Newton’s laws, perseverance). Some parents expressed that they “want to learn like this!” Eric believes that this provides evidence that RAFT can also transform the lives of parents through its methods as well as students and teachers, thereby creating a stronger learning community.

Here are the presentation slides used for the event, built collaboratively by Will and Eric.

If you are interested in learning more or want to speak with one of our Education Team members, please contact Eric Welker at