School news: A year in the Hillcrest STEM Lab

Provided by Hillcrest Elementary

In this 2021-22 school year, Hillcrest Elementary featured an exciting, new STEM auxiliary class to enrich the students at the school. The acronym STEM is used to summarize the educational approach that unites the disciplines of science, technology, engineering and math into one structured program that links the disciplines cohesively. With the ever evolving world, the need for the way teachers educate students evolves simultaneously. 

Implementing such programs as STEM at this delicate level host a variety of advantages to the students at the school. As the world continues to change, collaboration and communication is the only way to face the challenges at hand and those challenges to come. Collaborating and communicating is one of the core values of STEM education. When students study science, they explore the natural world around them. Students learn about innovation when technology is used to help solve problems. Students also increase their problem solving skills when engineering task and challenges are given. And, when students complete math task, they are learning how to analyze information. When marrying these disciplines, it helps provide students with real world problem solving skills and skill sets.

In the first semester, students completed numerous themed STEM activities. Every week, the students stepped into the Hawks STEM Lab eager to embark on another STEM challenge. In the beginning of their STEM journey, students began with introductory activities to get them engaged in the sciences such as the Erupting Volcano experiment. These many challenges proved  highly engaging, and surprisingly useful as students designed back scratchers where principals, teachers and parents all reaped the benefits. Students participated in read alouds such as “Goldilocks and the Three Bears” and were challenged to design a new chair for Baby Bear whose chair she had broken. Students also planned and designed “Spooky Houses with Friends.”  Math skills  from the classrooms were reinforced through Math Escape Room challenges. Students continuously used the engineering design process that eventually landed them in a Snowball (Marshmallow) Fight, in which the student engineered their own catapults. The first semester built the foundational skills to carry out scientific and engineering design processes. 

During the second semester, students began to take on a more rigorous task. Each grade level began a project unit in which they had to dig deeper to not only complete research, but also, complete the scientific inquiry process and design a solution to the answer from that knowledge gained through the process. Kindergarten students themed around the human body, and forms and function of body systems. They discovered why humans needed so many bones, which led them to the designing of a cast for an injured student. First grade students looked at nature  and the designs that were inspired from it. Students were able to use technology to make observations of parents and their offspring. They then studied animal communication and the structures and functions that help plants survive. In the final project, students design and engineered outdoor shelters. Second grade students tackled biodiversity, the diversity of life. They began by observing various ecosystems of earth. They were also challenged by different biodiversity scenarios that taught them the importance of diversity. Students then explored and made observations about their local habitats. In the final project, students use the information from their previous learning to design gardens.

Throughout the year, all of the students visited the Lincoln Parish STEM center. The Hawks looked forward to a day of learning and fun. The students were warmly welcomed by Ms. STEM (Missy Wooley) who engaged the students in jammed packed sessions of learning. Students were able to enjoy the sensory materials, construction, and critical thinking games provided. Students were able explore the robotics room where working with “the robots” was always a highlight of the visit. Students were asked to solve engineering problems that could prove to be life saving one day. Students engaged in math activities and science experiments as well.  

This was an exciting year for the Hawks exploring the STEM lab and other activities. It is important that students are able to think critically and solve real world problems. Throughout the year students explored careers that are STEM-related.  

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