Sparking Scientific Curiosity

There were student-designed rockets, roller coasters and catapults, collaborative bridge challenges to test structural efficiency, and devices built to help an egg survive a 10-meter drop, as students in Edison and Roosevelt Intermediate Schools teamed up and competed in an inter-school Science Olympiad on Jan. 28 for a second consecutive year.

Student teams participated in a Tower Challenge, provided with basic materials to build the highest tower possible capable of holding a water bottle with 500 ml of water for at least 60 seconds.  The teams also worked together to design a structure to protect an egg from shattering when dropped from 10 meters.

“This was another great Science Olympiad event that gave students from Edison and Roosevelt the opportunity to compete in events using designs created during the semester at their home school,” says Thomas Paterson, K-12 Supervisor of Science who designed the competition with Roosevelt science teacher Jeffrey Robbins and other members of the intermediate science team.  “It also allowed students the chance to be part of an inter-school team to solve new problems in the tower challenge and egg drop events.  The students showed fantastic teamwork, creativity, and problem solving skills throughout the day.”

Paterson points to the Science Olympiad semester course for intermediate students as a good example of hands-on, student-centered STEM learning.  And there are many other such opportunities across the Westfield Public School District.

Classroom STEM learning at the elementary level is often supplemented by afterschool STEM clubs and parent-run opportunities that focus on science, technology, engineering, the arts, and mathematics.  Parent volunteers at Tamaques School lent their time and professional expertise to STEAM Day on Jan. 24 with students in grades 1-5 treated to educational and entertaining sessions included V for Vortex, the Chemistry of Slime, Astronomy, Testing pH Levels, Fun with Dry Ice, and much more.

“Science is awesome,” said one Tamaques 5th grader as she created a spiraling, funnel-shaped vortex during STEAM Day.

At McKinley, what began seven years ago as Family Science Night, has become STEM Night with every presentation and experiment conducted by a McKinley parent, educator or alumni.

“STEM Night was a resounding success. It truly was a ‘family’ night and their efforts brought hands-on science to so many students,” says PTO STEM Committee Chair Heather Hoey Finn who worked with McKinley PTO president Elizabeth Lane and others to organize the evening.

The educational offerings for the more than 400 participants included coding, robotics, catapults, math baseball, how to survive an earthquake and how to make a house for the productive pollinating mason bees.

“Since science, technology, engineering and math is all about the numbers, here are a few,” says Finn about the hands-on presentations. “416 participants, 36 volunteers, 25 pounds of cornstarch used, 148 lavendar bath bombs created, 4 gallons of milk poured, 212 catapults constructed, 65 bee houses built, 36 Lego people racing down zip lines, 1 virtual classroom explored, 113 marshmallow and spaghetti earthquake proof structures shaken, and one community of students who were able to have the opportunity to learn new science concepts, thanks to all involved.”

The McKinley PTO thanked the Westfield Education Association for “a generous grant” to the STEM Committee to assist with some of the experiments.

“I am proud of our solid science curriculum which encourages student exploration and sparks curiosity,” says Superintendent Dr. Margaret Dolan.  “We also are extremely fortunate to have a parent community that supports and supplements hands-on STEM learning.”

 For a photo album of the intermediate Science Olympiad, click HERE.

For a photo album of STEAM Day at Tamaques, click HERE.

For a photo album of McKinley STEM Night, click HERE.

Source: Westfield Public Schools