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STEM Class - Fall 2020

Blog Type:  STEM Lower School
Date Posted:  Friday, December 18, 2020

During the 1st semester the STEM program was structured as hands-on project-based learning. 

True to the acronym “Science / Technology / Engineering / Math”, our inquires were developed in series and crossed disciplines. 

  • G1 flight is explored through butterfly observation drawings,the Monarch butterfly migration, and building windmills and catapults. 
  • In G2 observational drawings of marine animals were followed by “Ocean in a jar” which links an illustration of the ocean layers to the introduction of liquid density. 
  • G3 explored engineering in 3 successive modes of transportation: cars (wheels and axles), high performing paper airplanes, and rafts. 
  • In G4 anatomically correct drawings of the bones of the hand were followed by a working cardboard robotic arm. 
  • G5 did a series of open-ended scientific experiments: the egg drop (gravity, action and reaction), the egg float in saltwater (liquid density), and built an electromagnet. 

To ensure equity and participation, the students received project materials packages for most projects. To make it fun (student engagement), we combined play with engineering creativity and scientific inquiry. In G3-through G5 we built truss bridges and pyramids with gumdrops and toothpicks. In “design for our toys” G2 built swings (engineering),  G3 built Towns (architecture and planning), and G5 built Dream Rooms (furniture and interior design). While in G1 through G3 the process is more guided, in G4 and G5  the projects become more open and design-oriented. Making a paper soccer ball is fun (G5), but did you also know that it is the geometric solid “icosahedron”? In G1 and G2, we also extended STEM into STEAM, adding “art and diversity” - Pueblo pottery, California Native American basket designs, Haida drawings, and holiday crafts from various cultures. 

We used technology for communication, autonomous instruction and further extensions. The teacher uses 2 cameras and 2 screens for full screen zoom demonstrations with immediate student feedback. The zoom demonstration is accompanied by step-by-step photo instructions on Seesaw, and printed manuals of these instructions in the package. Further extensions are provided by instructional videos by outside sources.

After returning on-site at EB, in G1 through G3 STEM is taught in collaboration with the classroom teachers: The STEM teacher prepares individual project packages and links in through zoom for a step-by-step demonstration. The classroom teachers provide immediate assistance and are vital for the success of the projects. We take advantage of the zoom instruction for STEM to integrate the on-site and home-learning students who participate at the same time, and can see each other through the zoom screen.

The rigorous quality of the STEM program is best described by the quality of student work. They not only create amazing and different projects but also conduct and document thorough experiments.