nPower Girls provides STEM experience for students

Kids get in-class and in-the-field experiences through the WSU Extension-funded program


February 15, 2024

When the first year of the Career Connect Washington grant came through for the Washington State University Wahkiakum County 4-H Extension Program, the Wahkiakum Schools programs had already begun with Jessica Vik, but it took some time before the Naselle GRV Schools position was filled by Clarissa Colson. She had applied for a different job, but when talking with Principal Justin Laine, he floated another idea.

“I know of this other position,” he said.

Laine recognized Colson’s skills as a good fit for the Wahkiakum 4-H position funded through the WSU Extension program. The grant would provide a skilled person to work with students in robotics in the west end of Wahkiakum County. Now the Westend’s robotics program is in its second year with Colson working specifically with robotics and career exploration. Colson is excited to also support STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics) engagement.

While speaking with her, it was clear that she is a woman who knows technology; her father had a computer store in Astoria where she often worked alongside him as a youngster.

Colson, who graduated from Naselle High School in 1999, lives in Naselle. She is a perfect fit for the 4H Robotics program. She works with all grades, K-12, but in different roles. In the middle and high school Colson facilitates career exploration through industry speakers and field trips. For grades K-5, she provides orientation and assists teachers in incorporating robotics into core curricula.

One of the ways the students learn robotics is through skilled play.

“When the robotics program started, the Extension office bought a plethora of special Lego kits that teach students robotics,” Colson said. “Specifically the Lego Spike Essential kits for grades K-3 and the Lego Spike Prime kits for grades 4-5. The equipment is expensive, around $400 each if you buy online. There are 9-12 kits in each classroom, one for every two students. Kids pick it up quickly. Elementary teachers need to get oriented since they’ve never done programming before. I was hired on a Thursday and had to start teaching robotics on Monday, so I spent the weekend learning for myself.”

Colson enjoys bringing robotics to the young ones.

“Teaching with elementary kids is amazing,” she said. “I love doing projects with them. Middle school classes are going well, but I want to do more with them. They can be aloof, but when they actually start a project, they get engaged.”

She believes in 4-H and science.

“I think our model is working. In 4-H, it’s a model for other counties...By the time girls are in sixth grade, if they are not hooked on science, you lose them, so we are beginning a series for girls, nPower Girls. It’s an after school program for girls to learn through creative problem solving, while engaging in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) career conversations and listening to how women currently working in STEM careers were inspired to choose their career path.”

The message to girls on the flier reads:

“Think of yourself in your future career. Would you like to join other girls (boys welcome if interested) from your school who are interested in STEM careers? Would you like an opportunity to design and build a model of something that you could see yourself using as a tool or resource in your job?”

nPower Girls meets on Feb. 22, April 18, and May 23 from 3:15-4:45 p.m. in the Naselle Middle School Science Room (room 201). Grades 4-8. The program is free. To register, contact Clarissa Colson or Rona Johnson, at or To find out more about the 4-H group meeting on Feb. 1 or the nPower Girls group meeting on Feb. 22, contact Clarissa at or you can call Carrie Backman or Shari Parker at the WSU Extension/Wahkiakum 4-H Office at 360-795-3278.


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