July 21, 2014

What does it take to successfully create a bridge out of popsicles, use BIM to craft a logo out of Legos, or mix and mold a full-sized concrete hand? A group of fifth- through eighth-graders in Peninsula Bridge’s summer program can let you in on the secrets, thanks to their participation in classroom sessions led by DPR volunteers.

During the five week program, DPR taught at several program locations in the San Francisco Bay Peninsula area. The hands-on classes were designed to strengthen the children’s math, science, critical thinking and teamwork skills, while providing a fun and safe environment for learning.

Volunteer Brian Bangs led a session on concrete mixing and forming, where students created a concrete item such as a life-size hand, cup or concrete-stamped handprints. Seeing the joyful reaction of one particular fifth grade girl upon learning she’d get to make something to take home was a highlight for him. “Being able to do something the kids were really enjoying was very rewarding.”

Madeline Ziser spearheaded another new session this summer, leading seventh graders in an activity to create a DPR logo out of Legos by following a BIM model. “This was not an easy activity,” she pointed out. “The students are constantly challenged to complete the next step; there are all these mini-milestones as they work their way through it.”

“I’m constantly amazed by these kids,” Ziser added. “They are really smart and just fun to work with.”

Daniel Berson, who led a session on engineering, building and testing Popsicle stick bridges, said the biggest reward was “being able to show them the fun side to engineering.” There was special satisfaction breaking the stereotypes surrounding engineering and construction. “A lot of kids don’t see the teamwork that goes into construction or the level of thought required,” he said. “It’s nice to show them the fun side of both these fields.”

Since 1990, Peninsula Bridge has grown to provide academic enrichment programs to more than 350 low-income middle school students each year from the San Francisco Bay Peninsula’s under-resourced school districts.