by Cori Hilsgen
Creating structures from marshmallows and toothpicks might not sound like school work to everybody, but to Sartell students, it is and was part of National STEM/STEAM Day Nov. 8.
The St. Francis Xavier fifth-grade science class participated in a STEM activity that challenged groups to design a structure using marshmallows and toothpicks that would remain standing after being shaken in an earthquake simulation.
Students were required to plan, build and test their structure.
Science teacher Mary Winter said modifying the structure is also an important part of the learning process during science, technology, engineering and mathematics activities. Students, she said, are totally engaged in their learning during these lessons.
Students participate in a wide variety of STEM activities throughout the year.
“All grades in the school use the Project Lead the Way curriculum as a pathway to create engaging and hands-on learning that focuses on students solving real-life problems,” Winter said.
Fifth-grade students commented on STEM activities.
“I like STEM activities because you have to think deeply to figure out the answer to the problem,” said Kate Van Erp.
“I like STEM activities because you get to create and build to fix a problem,” said Alayna Ferche. “I also like the chance to modify my project if it doesn’t work the first time.”
“I like STEM because you learn science concepts that you can apply to real life,” said Mackenzie Smith.
Winter said as a teacher she can see a real benefit to STEM activities.
“Students love the lessons and they are gaining valuable learning tools to last a lifetime,” she said.
Students at Pine Meadow Elementary participated in a STEAM Week with many science, math, engineering and art projects happening.
School principal Sara Nelson said students used curriculum from Code.org to participate in guided inquiry, dialogue and critical thinking.
She said they enjoyed the unplugged lesson, “My Robotic Friend,” writing cup stacking code which their peers carried out, programming small Ozbots and engineering water wheels and bridges.
Students talked about what they learned.
“You have to try and if you don’t get it on the first try you have to try and try until you succeed,” said fourth-grader Rebecca Quast.
“I learned about bugs, debugging, robots and coding,” said fourth-grader Bailey Schwartz. “It was so amazing and I learned so much.”
“This day was very exciting and engaging for students,” Nelson said. “STEM activities were woven into every curricular area, challenging students to find solutions to given problems while continuing to focus on the 21st-century skills of collaboration, critical thinking, creativity and communication.”
Nelson said students will continue to explore coding and engineering throughout the year as they build 21st-century skills.
National STEM/STEAM Day is meant to inspire kids to explore and pursue their interest in these fields.
Some of the fastest-growing occupations include STEM/STEAM careers, so early interest in these careers can lead to future success in a global world, STEM/STEAM advocates maintain. They also add in order to help to close the gender gap that exists in these career fields, it’s becoming especially important to encourage girls to develop an interest in these fields.
Author: Cori Hilsgen
Hilsgen is a contributing reporter for the Newsleaders. The central Minnesota native is a wife, mother and grandmother. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Organizational Management and Communication from Concordia University – St. Paul, MN and enjoys learning about and sharing other people’s stories through the pages of the Newsleaders.