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Stepping into STEM at Mountain View!

September 19, 2016

What does “Green” Glue, Lightning Rods, or Saving a Town from a Flood have to do with STEM?  

A students stirs an opaque goopy mixture in a clear plastic cup.  Next to her are a pile of dried pinto beans, counted and ready to test how many will stick onto the index card using the goopy mixture she created.

 

Across the room you hear, “Mine is not sticking!!  AAGH!!  I used 3 tablespoons of water, that was too much.  This time I’ll use 2 tablespoons and see if it is less liquidy”.

 

The teacher walks by the table and asks, “What will you change in the next trial?”  He replies, “I think more cornstarch…I put 1 tablespoon in and it was a little sticky but definitely had too much water this time.”

 

Several minutes later, you hear “Yeah!!  Adding more cornstarch made it have more ‘sticky’.  I’m going to update my recipe now.”

 

Second grade students were given the challenge to create an environmentally-friendly or “green”, glue.  They were given cornstarch, water, salt, baking soda, flour, and their own brain power.  Would you be able to create a glue from those ingredients??

 

It looks like they had a lot of FUN trying!

 

And what a FUN DAY it was!!!  😀  STEM day was a HUGE hit with the students as they tested ideas, evaluated what worked and what didn’t work, and adjusted their plans.

 

Kindergarten through Fifth graders exercised their problem-solving skills individually and in group collaboration…all principles of STEM-style learning.  Loud and enthusiastic collaboration was heard across our school during Fall 2016 STEM Days!

 

What the Heck is “STEM”?

 

STEM is an acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering, Math.  Learning is collaborative and project-based.  Kids work closely together in a hands-on way to solve real-world problems. Learning problem-solving skills and helping students develop into creative, critical thinkers is at the core of STEM learning principles.  Teachers are not just telling the students what to do…students use their own data and discovery to solve problems presented by their teachers and peers!

 

Why STEM at Mountain View Elementary? 

 

The US Department of Commerce reports that over the last 10 years, jobs in STEM fields have grown three times as fast as jobs in non-STEM fields.  

Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) workers create innovation and boost our economy with new ideas, new businesses and new jobs.

 

STEM workers are in high demand for Georgia business owners and industries based in our state.  There are 2 job opportunities available for each STEM worker, versus 4.5 unemployed workers for every 1 Non-STEM job opening.  Which side of that equation would you want your child to be on?

 

So what does this mean for our elementary school kids today?  STEM learning is not just a new book, new worksheet series or a new twist on curriculum.  STEM is meant to be incorporated into every day classroom learning using hands-on collaborative problem-solving.  

 

Practicing problem-solving helps kids learn to think on their own as well as work with a small team of their peers to present ideas, agree on a plan, execute the plan, and review the results they got as a group.  Across the classroom you’ll hear “What worked well?” and “What could we change to make it better?”.

 

For example, 1st grade studied Benjamin Franklin the past couple weeks.  They created posters with facts and pictures of Mr. Franklin’s accomplishments and contributions to science and society.  Of course he’s famous for experimenting with lightning and inventing the lightning rod, so on STEM day the first graders explored how to measure weather conditions, created thunder sounds, and built lightning rods out of household materials (thanks to all the families who sent in supplies!).

 

Sounds like real-world thinking and teamwork skills developing there, right?  Plus the students learned about Science, History, Math, Meteorology, and practiced their writing and presentation skills!

 

If your fourth grader has a new-found interest in the weather report, it may be from their STEM day presentation from Meteorologist Kait Parker from the Weather Channel!  She answered questions like: “What if two hurricanes hit each other?”, “How long have tornados been happening on Earth?” and “How do you predict the weather?”  All of their questions lead them to answers they could use in their STEM day projects and problem-solving.

 

Fifth grade discovered how levees work using a variety of materials like sponges, rocks, duct tape, popsicle sticks and cotton balls.  Each student designed and drew their idea for a levee, then presented their idea to their small group.  The group agreed upon a design to test, or mixed their favorite parts of different designs together.  Time to build and test!  Check out their creations in progress:

 

How many of these fifth graders will see a flood on TV news and think, “I know how I can help those people!”?  How powerful could STEM learning be to improve our world?

 

We as parents can use STEM principles at home…allow your child to figure out how to sweep crumbs from under the table and around the table legs into a dustpan with a broom..instead of doing it yourself.  

 

That’d be a big help around the house, right?  Take it a step further and ask your child how would they prevent the dinner crumbs from falling under the table?  Encourage your child to draw out their ideas on paper, draw pictures, and collaborate with the rest of the family.  Really listen to their ideas, and ask questions on how they would make their ideas work.

 

You’ll be surprised at the creative solutions they present!  🙂

 

Happy STEM-ing at home!  Stay tuned for more STEM updates as we “Step Into STEM” at Mountain View Elementary School!

 

Special thanks to Mrs. Debra Taylor and Mrs. Doreen Campbell, our Foundation-sponsored Computer Lab and Science Lab teachers.  They helped the classroom teachers troubleshoot STEM Day projects and provide extra supplies.  We appreciate all our Foundation Members, your financial and volunteer-time support make STEM certification for Mrs. Taylor and Mrs. Campbell possible!

 

Tell us in the comments…What was your child’s favorite part of the day? 😀

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