– by Svetla Tomanova
On the heels of National Engineers week, Thalia Elementary School students demonstrated practical applications of STEM, participated in STEM-related rotations, and met “professionals” who shared their chosen careers in STEM fields. Except that these “professionals” were the school’s fifth graders. From veterinarian, cosmetologist and computer animator, to astronomer, robotics engineer and astrophysicist – they performed their “adopted” roles masterfully and advised on why to pursue careers in these STEM fields.
“Our Thalia families are an integral part of the educational team that works persistently to support student success,” said Principal Dr. Crystal Lewis-Wilkerson. “We’re grateful to our hardworking students, staff, and partners for making this event possible and for providing fun activities for the kids!”
At this STEM Night, students and their families busied themselves with a range of project-based learning activities. They expressed great enthusiasm for the activities, which included building noodle towers or rockets, competing at Sphero obstacles, playing Osmos games, Beebot and pizza box motion mazes, planting grass at the terrarium station and exploring math games at the Mathnasium table.
“Family engagement events of this kind help give families an understanding of the students’ project-based approach and how they can continue the learning at home,” said Laretha Johnson, instructional technology specialist at Thalia. “STEM activities help our students develop various skills including critical thinking, problem-solving, communication and teamwork, which are important for all areas of learning.”
Project-based learning has many benefits for students, according to Johnson. For several months before the event, students from all grades worked on various STEM projects that were tailored to meet specific targets and interests and designed to a range of learning objectives. Every student had a grade-appropriate STEM assignment. Some students were asked to create a 3D prototype of an energy-efficient home. Others had to evaluate current solutions and develop new ways to solve the problems facing aquatic ecosystems. Some students were tasked with designing free-standing porotype structures to solve a park shade problem for the kids living in Chill City. And some even developed an artifact model of ancient Egypt hieroglyphics: cartouche.
In the process of completing these projects, students delved into a wide range of subjects, including science, social studies, math and language arts.
Mathnasium of Pembroke and the Fleet & Family Support Center (Norfolk) were on hand to provide families with information about their services and to offer support.