By Palm Crest Elementary School Principal, Ms. Karen Hurley
About four years ago, after researching the benefits of actively involved dads in the success of their children, PCR dad Tracy Jeandron proposed the creation of a Dad’s club at Palm Crest Elementary School. With the approval and blessing of the Principal and then PTA President Melissa Mazin, a small group of PCR dads formed the first ever PTA Dads’ Committee. What began as a core group of men building carnival games for the PTA’s Springamajig fundraiser in 2012 has grown into a much larger group of fathers who are now seen regularly on campus volunteering in classrooms and offering their expertise in the arts, science, technology, engineering, and math programs, and beyond.
In the beginning, the PCR Dads’ Committee was an earnest gathering of a handful of men, meeting once a month in the PCR multi-purpose room. In addition to many tasks one normally associates with dads -- helping the moms do the heavy lifting at fundraising events and wielding shovels and hammers during campus beautification day, they brainstormed how to help the PTA in non-traditional ways -- fundraising and creating after-school classes and clubs in the newly emerging realm of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). In 2012, this cadre of dads ran the Science Fair, turning it from a novelty with 20 participants into a true celebration of science and innovation with over 80 students showcasing their ideas and experiments. A single night grew to an entire Science Appreciation Week, with special events scheduled each day, culminating in the annual Science Fair which now regularly draws one hundred or so students.
Correspondingly, in that same year (2012), another intrepid dad, Andres Castano, started our district’s first elementary grade after-school computer programming class for a dozen 5th and 6th graders. The class was a huge success and programming at PCR grew steadily year by year. Within three years Andres was offering four after-school programming classes reaching down to the 4th grade and satisfying all levels of computer programming interest -- introductory, intermediate, game design, and an advanced computer design class. By the 2016-17 school year, programming had migrated from after-school enrichment classes into the regular school day curriculum. Programming is now offered as part of the regular weekly computer lab time for all 4th, 5th and 6th graders at PCR.
Again, simultaneously in 2012, the PCR Dad’s Committee created the first elementary level robotics club in the District -- the PCR Robotics Club. The club was made available to all students at PCR and hosted monthly talks on robotics from scientists, engineers and programmers from all over Southern California. Over 100 PCR students from Kindergarten through 6th grade were treated to demonstrations and talks by robotics experts from JPL, USC, Caltech, iRobot, and by surgeons who pioneered robotics surgery. In addition, the PCR Robotics Club formed a robotics team to compete in the then new VEX IQ robotics league. Led by PCR dads Hans Ku, Fred Serrichio, and Sugi Sorenson, a team of twelve PCR 6th graders designed, built and operated a robot in the First International VEX IQ Robotics Competition in Anaheim. As with programming, the popularity of the competitive robotics program grew year after year and PCR dad Chris McDonald led and coached several teams from PCR to compete in the First Lego League (FLL) robotics competitions. PCR teams traveled as far as San Diego to compete in this robotics competitions.
Things continued to grow in the STEM fields with just a handful of PCR dads. The men had ideas galore and the firsts continued to pour forth from their creative minds. From its inception, the PCR Dad’s Committee sought to be the first District elementary school to acquire and host a 3D printer. Initially, short on funds, it took a year of fundraising before they were able to achieve their dream. In 2013 they purchased a 3D printer for the school. With the help of PCR dads, teacher Tara Hall, created, designed and taught an after-school 3D design class for upper grade PCR students. Today Palm Crest is home to no less than three 3D printers and continues to offer after-school 3D Design classes at varying levels. And, following the programming model, computer media specialist Jeanine Bentz has found ways to incorporate the 3D design curriculum and projects into her weekly computer lab time.
Dads from the PCR Dad’s Committee also lent their brains and hands to help existing Palm Crest STEM offerings. They led science experiments in the classroom as part of the then Science Docent program. They volunteered their time to teach after-school mathematics classes and led Hour of Code events in numerous classrooms.
But how could they fund all of their ideas? In that fruitful first year, Jeandron and fellow dad Brian Parker came up with the idea of hosting a golf tournament to fund their many STEM offerings. Together the dads planned, organized and hosted the first annual Palm Crest Golf Open, drawing golfers and amateurs alike to the La Cañada Country Club for a day of golf, food, and friendship. A monumental event, PCR dads (and moms) worked for months to create a fun and successful event. Their hard work paid off. They drew over seventy golfers and raised $15,000 the first year of the event. As you read this, PCR Dad’s Committee leaders Sean Hunt and Jerry Cradduck are currently planning a bigger and better fourth annual Palm Crest Golf Open for this school year. Not content with the funds raised from the Golf Open, other PCR dads wrote grant requests for their innovative STEM programs. Over the past two years dads have raised another $25,000 in STEM grant money to supplement the other fundraising activities and to make sure their programs are fully funded, healthy and sustainable.
The result of the creation of the PCR Dads’ Committee is success in all directions. From after-school and in-school volunteerism to fundraising, the dads have had a positive impact on the face of PCR. The men are everywhere on campus -- familiar faces, comfortable and actively involved in the betterment of the PCR community. It is a Development Asset (a district-wide program) that has grown from one dad’s seed idea in 2012 to a forest of opportunities for PCR children today.