Students in each of the Mt. Healthy elementary buildings have been using Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) and Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math (STEAM) curriculums to further the academic successes in the classrooms. Mrs. Robin McGinnis is leading the charge using STEM/STEAM activities in by showing the elementary teachers how to incorporate “STEM Challenges” into their everyday activities and current curriculums. Additionally, Veronica Dean has included noteworthy amounts of Engineering and Technology lessons into the Science classes and curriculums in addition to leading the M2SE Club at the Jr/Sr High School. Several grants were received through Greater Cincinnati STEM Collaborative for 3D Printing and a Bicycle Club. These clubs were afterschool extracurricular offered for students in grades 3-6. Two third grade teachers, Kacie Lucas and Brittany Hashemi, from South Elementary held the 3D printing club from January through March for grades 3-5, and Joe Ohrdandsky and Charlie Vample led the Bicycle Club at North Elementary for sixth grade students. Additionally, students in the ACHIEVE program also have increased opportunities with STEM curriculum through specific projects. The district’s strategic plan, Education Destination, emphasizes a goal to increase knowledge and engage students through Project Based Learning and STEM learning, which has been implemented throughout this school year.
STEM Challenges are the projects in which Mrs. McGinnis and other teachers are executing in the classroom that follow the appropriate grade-level curriculum and the Ohio Teaching Standards. Not only are the challenges meeting the standards and the district’s Education Destination plan, they set the parameters and criteria for learning, they follow rubrics and set expectations for student engagement, and they provide authentic learning for students.
Examples of challenges include:
- Index Card Structural Design, which was implemented in grades 2 through 12. Students created structures using only index cards. Their structures were multi-leveled and depended on a balanced design. Students used an engineering design process with questioning the process, trial and error, and an answer and evaluation of their structures. It was determined that a triangular structures had the most success.
- Rollercoasters were designed and built in grades 3 through 5 and introduced the terms and properties of kinetic and potential energy. The challenges used only a marble, tape, and Styrofoam tubing and had to be free standing as well as include a loop and a hill in the design.
- Most recently 3rd graders have been creating robots or scribble bots. While this challenge is quite technical, the teachers have been addressing it in small steps while also teaching the vocabulary and helping the students understand they have to tell the robot very specifically to do the job. Students are learning that in coding, robots only do what they are told, through the specific language. Eventually, students will work with the dot and dash robots, which Mrs. McGinnis has acquired about 20 for student learning and coding.
- Preschoolers in Mt. Healthy are also working with STEM by using the dash and dot robots to learn new words and read. They used the robots in connections with Chicka Chicka Boom Boom book and built a foam block structure to support the letters of the climbing tree. They also used The Three Little Pigs story and built houses. They decorated a fan as the Big Bad Wolf and experimented to see which ones stayed standing in the fan’s wind. They have built sink and float sail boats using cork, toothpicks, rubber bands, and paper, which is teaching the students about wind and air to power a structure.
- Students in the ACHIEVE program recently completed a Marshmallow Challenge where they designed and built a spaghetti structure that could hold the weight of marshmallows. They have also built bridges using toothpick and hot glue. These challenges help them by using the mathematics lessons they have learned like distance, volume, length, capacity, as well as physics lessons.
Mrs. McGinnis explains, “These challenges allow our students to be very engaged in learning, even our most reluctant learners are engaged.” As she describes the challenges, “There is no prescribed end product, no one right answer. How students choose to go about it is up to them. They have to experience the trial and error as this how we learn and grow.”
The future for this program is bright as students are driving the learning process and many teachers seeing the advantages to teaching using Project Based Learning and hands on approach to education. The Teaching and Learning Coordinators are working closely with the junior high and high school teachers to develop an updated curriculum that includes more of the Project Based Learning methodologies as well as 3D printing and the 5E Model of Teaching (Engage, Explain, Explore, Evaluate, and Elaborate).