During the second week in August, 53 students from across the District participated in the first Elementary Summer STEM Program held at Penn Valley Elementary School. Teachers educated through the District's STEM partnership with Arcadia University collaborated with Nancy Acconciamessa, the District's Supervisor of Elementary STEM, to create an immersive opportunity for students to explore the engineering and design process, makerspace, circuits, robotics and coding. With support from students of the District's chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers, Jr., the elementary students enjoyed five days of creating, collaborating and learning through hands-on, engaging STEM activities!
Students began the week by engaging in a makerspace activity and exploring the engineering and design process when they were challenged to use a wide variety of materials to make a pencil case. Students quickly employed everything from sewing machines and duct tape to cardboard and popsicle sticks to create a unique case for storing their pencils. This opening "maker" activity prepared the students for the week's bigger challenge, which was to create something to improve life in the classroom. Students and teachers considered some of the challenges faced during a school year - things like keeping desks organized, facilitating trash and recycling collection, selecting topics for writing assignments and much more. After careful consideration and planning, students worked all week to create and refine their products. Some created one-of-a-kind notebooks, while others created desk-top organizers, water bottle holders, random writing idea generators and pillows to make seating a little more comfortable. On Friday morning, students proudly shared their amazing creations with each other!
While part of each day was spent making and creating through the engineering and design process, there was another part of the day that provided the children with the opportunity to explore robotics, circuits and programming. Each of the three classrooms offered the children a different learning experience. During the course of the week, the students rotated through each learning environment where they were introduced to a variety of resources. Edison Programmable Robots and Spheros offered opportunities to explore programming, along with chances to hone remote control skills. The students thoroughly enjoyed driving the robots through the halls and programming them to complete specific tasks!
In addition, students explored tools like Little Bits, Makey Makey and Snap Circuits to complete circuits that created outcomes with lights and sounds. One student even created a transistor radio that picked up local AM radio stations. The children watched a fun video to help them understand how programmers need to think like a robot in order to write an accurate program before experimenting with programming using Tynker and Code.org. These kid-friendly sites offer a range of activities that helped students learn to write code to complete specific challenges. These engaging resources quickly became a favorite choice activity for many!
In addition to the independent work that happened during the week, students also learned that collaboration, critical thinking and communication are important parts of creating, engineering and coding. To help the students learn more about teamwork, they participated in two challenges using BreakoutEDU boxes. Given clues, students needed to work together to unlock a box and reap the rewards. The sense of accomplishment after each successful endeavor was amazing to witness!
The students selected to participate in the program completed a survey about STEM before and after their week of collaborating and creating. Based on the positive responses, plans are already underway for next year's Elementary Summer STEM Program!
To view a slideshow of pictures from the Elementary STEM Summer Program, click on the image below.