Featured Educator: Steph Elder and Destination Exploration at University of Lethbridge

October 28, 2021

Meet Steph Elder at Destination Exploration

Steph Elder is the Program Coordinator at Destination Exploration and has a degree in Civil Engineering and Management from McMaster University. They have been working with outreach organizations and sharing their love for engineering and STEM with youth since 2013.  Steph is a kid at heart and isn’t afraid to get a little messy for the sake of science. 

Tell us a little about your organization.

Destination Exploration (DE) is the Youth STEM Outreach program run out of the University of Lethbridge in Lethbridge, Alberta. We also are part of a national network called Actua. Our goal is to provide programming to all youth that creates a self-awareness of their abilities and highlights the enjoyment they find in STEAM as a base for life-long learning. (Follow our Instagram , Twitter, or Beacon page!) 

Basically taking all the best parts of STEM and having fun with it! In the summer we run week long camps for grades K-8 which are always a blast and we hire university students to run those. During the school year (Sept-Apr) we run afterschool clubs both on campus in our facility and partnered with schools to run club right in their spaces which allows us to provide more opportunities to kids across the city. In Alberta, kids get out of school on Fridays at noon! So we run clubs on campus on Friday afternoons. We have started to expand into offering Teacher PD sessions on a variety of tech tools – like the Makey Makey to help educators feel more confident in adding tech/digital literacy into their lessons. 

Tell us a little about your Makey Makey training for teachers.

We shared the training of our full day Makey Makey training session after being trained by Makey Makey! Back in 2019, we (the DE staff) attended the annual Actua National Conference and participated in the Makey Makey Invention Literacy Workshop to be trained in facilitating these workshops back in our communities.

Actua is a network of programs like Destination Exploration at post-secondary instructions across Canada. We have run it a few times and find that it is a great way for those who may not have had any experience to fully understand how to utilize the Makey Makey.

What was the challenge or instructions you presented to the teachers?

The teachers from the last training are working on their school having a more STEM focus. This year they are creating their makerspace and wanted to come attend our Makey Makey training.

During the invention literacy workshop, our teachers didn't have a lot of experience with coding, so we focused on design thinking and bringing the idea of empathy into their teaching. 

The afternoon was focused around a design challenge that implements the design thinking process. Teachers were prompted to think about a problem or inconvenience they may have in their classroom or with a lesson they are teaching and build something that could solve that problem. They could work individually or in a group – we saw them generally work with other teachers who were teaching similar grade levels.

Can you share links to some of your favorites?

This was a quick prototyping activity, and I'm happy to share pictures of all of the projects.

This grade 3 teacher wanted students to know they can say the time in different ways. Every quarter hour, there was a conductive touchpad programmed to say the different ways of saying time like“quarter after or 15 past the hour.”

One group designed a floor mat that when stepped on would remind kids to take off their wet boots or wet shoes. They programmed this floor mat to use different phrases, accents, and voices so that kids would listen and remember to take off their wet shoes. This group went to their classrooms to forage for supplies and used stickers and pool noodles as part of their design.

There was a math game with a box full of wires and the group told me "This is a game!" They used the front and back of the Makey Makey. Three players would play the game and each would choose a number or operator which would be voiced through Scratch, Then the players would try and answer the question correctly and the fastest! 



One teacher worked with multiple classes and she wanted to create a check-in board. This colorful invention asked kids what type of break they wanted. It was programmed to both play a corresponding sound and give a type of break activity as well as count how many times the break type was pressed! At the end of the day, she could see how many kids chose what type of break.



The last game was a colour matching game/board. This teacher already had experience with Scratch. She made this colour matching game with wands. Scratch would tell the player to match the wand to the colour on the board. If you clicked the wrong color, Scratch would say , "No, try again!"



So this teacher programmed the game to tell the player whether they were correct or not!

How will the teachers use these concepts in your program?

While the teachers will not be directly involved with teaching at DE, we have a strong partnership with the school where this was delivered. They are taking all their new Makey Makeys to their new makerspace. This school is shifting towards becoming the STEM school in their district and have worked with us in the past to deliver tech workshops on their monthly STEM days. The principals brought us in with the hopes to both increase the general understanding of coding/digital literacy and well as establish a working relationship between the teachers and our team. 

Find out more about Destination Exploration

Web: www.uleth.ca/destination-exploration   

Facebook: www.facebook.com/ulethbridgede

Twitter: www.twitter.com/ulethbridgede

Instagram: www.instagram.com/ulethbridgede



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