As the School District investigates implementing Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) education into the curriculum, individual schools are introducing students to STEM with special activities and events.
Last week, North Elementary School celebrated National Library Week by offering students the chance to participate in a variety of STEM activities in the library each day. Earlier, on April 1, the Matthew Thornton Elementary School Parent Teacher Association hosted an all-day STEM museum filled with interactive stations for students in second through fifth grades.
One of the goals of STEM week was to show teachers that incorporating STEM is easy, fun and engages students, according to teacher Beth Haarlander, selected by the School District, along with teacher Lillian Pirog, to attend STEM workshops.
“We tried to put together activities teachers could easily put together in their classrooms. We used materials we already had in the school and recycled materials, like cereal boxes,” said Library Media Specialist Kate Thompson.
Although the activities used simple materials, they provided students with unique challenges that held their attention.
“There hasn’t been a single student that wasn’t engaged and involved,” said Carol Currier, a fifth grade teacher whose students participated in the NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) lunar lander challenge, in which they were tasked with building a vehicle to safely land two marshmallow astronauts.
Activities for first and second graders were literature based – students read a picture book, then completed a STEM activity related to the story, Thompson said.
Students in the school’s fourth grade classes explored different structures used in bridges, then built different styles of bridges out of index cards and tested how many pennies their structures could support. Third graders explored the construction of tall structures and cooperated to build a freestanding pipe cleaner tower.
STEM education is characteristically project-based and hands-on, encouraging students to take initiative and work collaboratively to complete a challenge. The goal of STEM education is to encourage students to take an interest in STEM subjects at an early age.
Incorporating STEM into the District’s curriculum aligns with its college and career readiness goals, teaching students problem solving and critical thinking skills, according to Haarlander.
“That’s where a lot of jobs in the future will be,” she said.