28 on by OC Schools

Ontario Christian Kicks Off STEM Projects

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We hope all of our families are enjoying a fabulous start to the last quarter of the school year. It is amazing to hear and see all the wonderful learning that has taken place in each classroom this year!

My name is Kourtnie Roberts and I am the Director of Curriculum and Instruction at Ontario Christian. I have a passion for creating an educational environment and classroom that is engaging for all students. I believe in the 3-E’s of teaching and learning – Enhance, Enrich, and Engage. Enhance on the basic skills the student already know. Enrich the students with opportunities to grow beyond the basic skills. Lastly, and I believe most importantly, engage the students by allowing the students to be engaged in their learning. Creativity, collaboration, critical thinking, communication, and inquiry-based activities are so important to enhance the student’s engagement opportunities in their learning.

Have you heard your student recently talk about STEM or STEAM? A big part of engaging the students is implementing STEM activities (Science Technology Engineering, and Mathematics) or STEAM (Art). There are so many fun STEM activities that are not just limited to Robotics and Mechanical Engineering. I have taught several STEM activities based on fabulous fables. So FUN!

You may be asking, “What is STEM”? Great Question! STEM is an approach to learning that centers around an individual student’s learning styles and interests resulting in the STEM activity having something to offer every student. STEM emphasizes integrating four specific disciplines – Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics – in an interdisciplinary and applied approach. This approach focuses on developing higher level thinking skills and connecting classroom learning to the real world. In each STEM activity, 5 steps are taken –Ask, Imagine, Plan, Create, Test, and Improve. Those steps emphasize collaboration, communication, research, problem solving, critical thinking, and creativity.

The Next Generation Science Standards also include engineering practices, which are the behaviors that engineers engage in as they apply science and mathematics to design solutions to problems. Although, engineering design is similar to scientific inquiry, there are significant differences. For example, scientific inquiry involves the formulation of a question that can be answered through investigation, while engineering design involves the formulation of a problem that can be solved through design. Strengthening the engineering aspects of the Next Generation Science Standards will clarify for students the relevance of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (the four STEM fields) to everyday life. Engaging in these practices, even beginning as young as kindergarten, help students become successful analytical thinkers, prepared for college and careers.

During the last part of April and all of May I will be visiting various classes to introduce STEM. I will explain what it is and have the students complete a problem-based and performance based activity completing the 5 steps of Ask, Imagine, Plan, Create, Test, & Improve.

Here is what I have started:

Mrs. Westenbroek’s kindergarten class – We read “If I Ran a Zoo” by Dr. Seuss. The students then used the 5 steps to create their own extraordinary zoo animal and then in groups created an Exhibit for their animals.

Mrs. Tschetter’s and Mrs. Thacker’s 3rd grade classes –The students integrated their exposure to Space to complete 4 stations – “Space Flight”, “Space Launcher”, “Trip to the Moon”, and “Space Launch Platform”.

Mrs. Sterk’s and Mrs. Powell’s 4th grade classes – The students were posed with taking a simple 1 task and making it more complicated by adding 3 more steps. The students were asked to develop a Simple Machine contraption that pours 3 ounces of water into another cup. Their system must have 3 steps to it. They used their exposure and understanding of simple machines (levers, pulleys, incline plane, wedge, etc) to build this contraption. SO MUCH FUN!

My favorite part is hearing the students work together on creating their design. Hearing 4th graders discuss and debate how to construct a contraption that uses 3 steps to pour water into another cup is truly inspiring!

Stay tuned for more details in the coming weeks as our OC students put their problem solving skills to work! I look forward to seeing the wonders of the students being engaged in a high-level thinking activity with various avenues of exploration. I can not wait to share more adventures in our Spring STEM Showcase.