By Laura Van Horn, City Year Dallas AmeriCorps member

“Miss... when are you coming back to our classroom with your friends?”

“Miss… what’s the next City Year STEM challenge?”

These are two of the more frequent questions I received from my 8th graders the day after Fluor Cares day*. On this day, City Year Dallas AmeriCorps members stepped out of their typical math and English classroom and stepped into a classroom filled with volunteers from Fluor* and Dallas Afterschool**. To start the day off, City Year, Fluor, and Dallas Afterschool all participated in an opening circle where we introduced our visitors to City Year culture, followed by a team builder. Following our team builder, Dallas Afterschool provided all of us with a wonderful tutorial on how our STEM activity would work. Then, it was GO time!

Spirit break with City Year, Fluor and Dallas Afterschool before working with students at Francisco "Pancho" Medrano Middle School

We dispersed into eight different classrooms where City Year and Fluor teamed up to explain our STEM activity to the students. The object of the activity was to get the students to build the highest tower using only uncooked spaghetti noodles and masking tape. The tower our students built had to be strong enough to hold a marshmallow at the very top. Overall, this was a very exciting day for our team as we got to show off how smart and creative our students are. Our friends from Fluor had the opportunity to learn more about our school and share with our students “what they fight for,” which is equal education for all. Fluor volunteers helped make sure that every group of students saw the project as a fun experience.

Students working on creating "skyscrapers" with dry spaghetti and marshmellows, learning about STEM concepts such as balance.

One specific group in my 8th grade classroom was having a difficult time coming together to complete their tower. Fortunately, our amazing Fluor volunteers were able to step in and facilitate. Once they noticed this group was arguing, they were able to pull the group together and work through some conflict resolution. Our volunteers helped talk the students through the project, and helped the students assign different responsibilities so that everyone played a key role in the project. Together they made a game plan for the rest of their class time. After the brainstorming session and execution of building the tower, their tower wasn’t the tallest in the class, but to them it didn’t matter. What mattered was that they worked through their issues together and were able to create a tower in the end. 

As City Year Dallas AmeriCorps members who serve these students every day, we also often have to step in and exercise conflict resolution between students, whether there is an argument between two students or a group of students is having trouble working through a challenge. It was great to see how the Fluor volunteers handled the situation because we can always learn new perspectives and methods to try in the future. When it comes to supporting our students personal and academic development, it truly takes a village.

AmeriCorps Service Leader and author Laura Van Horn working with students at Francisco "Pancho" Medrano Middle School

* Fluor Cares® is a program initiated by Fluor, a FORTUNE 500® company that delivers engineering, procurement, fabrication, construction (EPFC) and maintenance solutions to government and private sector Clients in diverse industries. Fluor Cares®, Fluor's formal employee volunteer program, is the heart of the company's community involvement efforts. 

** Dallas Afterschool is a company that aims for every family to have access to the quality afterschool and summer programs they want for their children.

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