One Oakland Elementary student is turning her love for animals into a platform every student can enjoy. Jaylene Park, a 4th-grade virtual student at Oakland Elementary, embarked on a new project to bring awareness to the world of animal science.
As part of the STEM program, Jaylene enjoys the challenge of critical thinking and developing new ideas. While a CMCSS K-12 Virtual school student, she has adapted to the more individual learning style online classes present. The new learning environment has not hampered her interest in creation. “I like the assignments because I am able to use different platforms that I haven’t worked with before. The assignments are also more challenging than they would have been in traditional school,” said Jaylene while discussing her virtual classes.
Her parents know supporting her interests and encouraging activity outside of school is essential. “Parents should be creative,” said Ho Ryong Park, Jaylene’s father. “Simply crafting or playing outside can be a STEM activity.”
“It’s her idea. We just help her connect to her interests,” he continued. He insists all parents can engage with their children in new ways. “What can you initiate? Ask your child, ‘Are you willing to do this?’” For Jaylene’s family, animals were a clear choice.
“I like animal science, and with the pandemic, we had to be indoors more,” she explained. “My parents and I talked about a way to spend our time meaningfully, and we decided to do something we could do consistently, so we started the YouTube channel.”
Her interest in science is evident in her new channel, AniFam. The channel features videos highlighting different animals in each episode. Jaylene discusses topics ranging from their habitat, diet, and unique characteristics.
The project first began with her favorite animal, the wolf. Since then, she’s covered everything from Katydids to Eagles. “At first, I was nervous, but when I started, it turned out to be more fun than I expected.”
For a new viewer, Jaylene recommends the comparison series to discuss the difference between two animals. “I’d recommend the Jaguars vs. Leopards video because that is the first comparison video we made,” she said.
Jaylene’s mom, Su Jin Lee, is surprised by how detailed the videos have been. “I was not interested in animals at all. I did not know the difference between jaguars and leopards. She taught me!”
Jaylene puts together all of the research, content and records the voiceovers. Her parents assist with editing and uploading the information. “It is really fun to spend time with my parents and do the research,” she said. She admits the most challenging part is recording. “I have to get my voice just right.”
Her parents are proud of the effort and initiative Jaylene has put into the project. Besides technical assistance, they have allowed her to explore the topics and lead each video’s development. Jaylene’s mom, Su Lee, said the STEM opportunities available through CMCSS have allowed her daughter to explore her interests in new ways.
“When she was in second grade, she began participating in the STEM activities,” said her mom. “She has learned a lot from Ms. Harper and through activities at the Learning Center.” While the CMCSS Learning Center does not currently offer in-person events, there are still online opportunities.
Karen Harper, STEM and Science Curriculum Consulting Teacher, is amazed by Jaylene’s efforts. “When COVID closed schools last spring, Jaylene decided to stay busy,” she said. “It is something incredible to see this family embracing learning.” Ms. Harper explained that she is sharing the life science standards for grades 3-5 to help Jaylene make the videos relevant for her peers.
Jaylene and her family plan to continue the video creation through the rest of the school year. She is excited about the upcoming projects, including a new Hedgehogs vs. Porcupines video. Her parents insist they will happily continue the project, and her father said, “The family collaboration is invaluable.”