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Treasures 4 Teachers STEM kits expand thanks to APS Foundation grant


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  • Elaina Verhoff/Gordon C. James Public Relations

A Rocket Car Built With A Treasures 4 Teachers Hands-on STEM Kit. Photo Courtesy Treasures 4 Teachers

Ray Wendel, a U.S. Army Veteran and engineer, retired in 2005 and found that his hobbies of woodworking, remodeling and home repair just weren’t enough for him.

So he turned to volunteermatch.org and found Tempe-based Treasures 4 Teachers (T4T), an organization that provides free and low cost supplies to teachers from community reusable resources.

Treasures 4 Teachers STEM kits expand thanks to APS Foundation grant RocketCar

A rocket car built with a Treasures 4 Teachers hands-on STEM kit. Photo courtesy Treasures 4 Teachers

When he started volunteering at T4T, Wendel says he was amazed at what they did. “Then when they found out what I could do, they asked me, ‘can you do this, can you do that, can you do this too?’ I said, ‘yes, yes and yes’ and I began to wonder if I was really retired!”

T4T Executive Director Barbara Blalock asked Wendel to create science kits using recyclable materials. The T4T STEM educational kit program is in its fifth year.

Thanks to a $5,000 grant from the APS Foundation and the hard work of Wendel, T4T is doubling the number of STEM kits from 10 to 20.

Wendel says “I like to make a positive difference in a child’s life and to get them interested in STEM subjects. Teachers are vital to our future and we should all help them in any way we can.”

To create T4T’s STEM educational kits, Wendel took everyday items and combined them in unexpected ways to demonstrate important STEM concepts in Arizona K-8 classrooms. Used CD’s and poster board become a CD Rocket Engine Car, a used file folder becomes a periscope, and strings of holiday lights becomes a basic electrical circuit.

Wendel recently built a new rocket ship display for the kits in the new T4T store. Teachers push a button on the display, which completes a visible circuit (one of the kit activities) and the display comes to life. The new display space for the kits has led to an increased popularity among visiting teachers.

Each kit contains curriculum set to AZ educational standards, creating a complete educational project for teachers to use in their classrooms. These kits, focusing on a variety of subjects and grade levels, give teachers hands-on activities to help demonstrate key learning concepts to their students.

STEM educational kits from T4T are used for tactile learning experiences in the classroom. These hands-on lessons strengthen students’ tactile development, perceptual acuity, language, math, science, and analytical skills.

With repurposed items serving as components to the kits, students are also taught awareness about the environment and how conservation can happen in creative ways.

The T4T STEM Educational Kits are available to all Arizona schools. The 6,000 STEM educational kits already distributed over the past four years have reached close to 180,000 Arizona students who learn in classrooms with limited resources.

These kits serve as a valuable learning tool for STEM concepts in the classroom. At the same time, they also teach the importance of recycling by being comprised primarily of repurposed materials that would have otherwise ended up in landfills.

Treasures 4 Teachers is a member based resource and supply store serving the educators of Arizona. This means that anyone who works closely with students can have access to a wide selection of materials, resources and training that will enhance and expand the learning process. The materials we provide are able to come at low to no cost due to our donation based operations.