Bilingual science family night engages parents, students (w/video)

Carolina Astrain By Carolina Astrain

Jan. 11, 2014 at 11:05 p.m.
Updated Jan. 11, 2014 at 7:12 p.m.

Benjamin Bian sat next to his father, Aiguo Bian, inside the Stroman Middle School gymnasium Tuesday night.

Benjamin, an Aloe Elementary School fourth-grade student, laughed as Andrea Cook, Mad Science of Austin and San Antonio show specialist, showed a patch of audience members different ways science can be fun.

Cook cracked a few science jokes and invited students to join her in a few demonstrations.

"It's important to take the tiniest details in learning and make them fun for learning," Cook explained.

The presentation, packaged with another presentation given to Stroman Middle School sixth-graders before the holiday break, cost the Victoria school district $2,500.

Parts of the cost was paid for using the district's bilingual/English as a second language department, its special education department and the middle school's curriculum budget, said Diane Boyett, VISD communications director.

The science night was the second family event hosted by the bilingual/ESL department this year, said Lupita Narvaez, bilingual/ESL learning coordinator.

But Tuesday night's event was not just for bilingual/ESL students, Narvaez said.

"We open it up to everybody in the district," Narvaez said.

Bian, whose first language is Mandarin, said he brought his son to the event to pique Benjamin's interest in science.

"It was pretty good," Bian said. "I'm trying to get him to do more science."

The department had its first Family Reading Night , which also featured performances by ballet folklorico students from the high schools, in November.

Science vocabulary sheets with English-to-Spanish translation awaited incoming attendees.

J.R. Ramirez smiled as he watched students and their parents visit information booths after the gymnasium show.

Ramirez, who moved from Houston last year to take on the role of assistant principal at Stroman, said he relates closely to students who are learning English as a second language.

"That was me," Ramirez, 36, said.

Ramirez, a first-generation Mexican-American, said efforts like the bilingual family nights are important to a campus like Stroman.

Stroman has a 76.3 percent Hispanic student population, according to data collected by VISD for the 2013 fall semester.

"We want this group of students to know what science courses they should be signing up for in high school," Ramirez said.

Mario Rodriguez, 28, and his wife, Maria, came to the event with their daughters, two of whom attend F.W. Gross Elementary School.

Rodriguez, a Mexico native who moved his family from Houston to Victoria for a construction job, said he appreciates events like these.

"It helps us as parents," said Rodriguez in Spanish. "Maybe they can go on and become something big, like a scientist."

Susanne Carroll, VISD executive director of curriculum, instruction and accountability, looked on as students concocted their own cups of slime at one of the event's learning booths.

Carroll, along with other members of campus leadership, has spearheaded the district's curriculum initiative aimed at authentic engagement.

"This is authentic engagement at its best," Carroll said.



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