What’s Been Going on in STEAM Class Lately??

Quite some time has passed since I last blogged so here’s a quick rundown of some of the exciting things that happened in STEAM this spring!

First grade:  In connection with their math content from class, students discussed geometry and the connection of shapes in building design.  They then created three dimensional shapes with gumdrops and toothpicks to test their strength.  We discussed various building designs around the world, such as the One World Trade Tower, the Burj Kalifa, the Shanghai Tower and even ancient buildings such as the Pyramids of Egypt and the Parthenon in Athens, Greece.  Students were challenged to create and test shapes for their strength.

Fifth Grade:  One of our community partners, the Community Sailing Center, has been to Flynn multiple times this spring to bring curriculum connected to the NGSS standards we teach and a goal of inspiring increased lake stewardship for our students.  Dayna McRoberts, educator of CSC, allowed students to test various water samples, some out of our faucet, and discuss what pH, phosphorus, salinity, dissolved oxygen, and turbidity is.  These scientific ideas were easy for students to grapple with as they did similar tests with EPSCoR earlier this year and during their ecosystem unit with Ms. Pecor.  As a class Dayna discussed the implications of high turbidity in water or elevated phosphorus levels and what actions students can take to improve lake health.  

Even more exciting, a few weeks after, all fifth grade students made trips to the Sailing Center to sail, test pH, turbidity and take the temperature of Lake Champlain.  I was lucky to join Ms. Pecor’s class on the lake and was impressed by the knowledge they held about the lake.  I said to one of our fifth graders, “Wow, you know so much about science!  It’s incredible,” to which she replied, “We learn it all in your class Ms. Asaro!”  I certainly can’t take full responsibility for the breadth of their knowledge, but it is remarkable to see how much of our integrated teaching is paying off.  



I was really impressed with our fifth graders last week when each class completed the last challenge that aligns with our submersibles unit.  Before entering into this challenge, they had to investigate and grapple with the idea of mass and volume in relation to sinking and floating. Some students even began to understand the concept of density.

Every team was able to complete the first challenge of creating a floating submersible with different density vials that served as the submersibles “instruments”.   Almost every team after that, was able to complete the challenge of retrieving three different packages from our “sea floor”.   In the end, I was impressed that most students were able to understand mass and volume in relation to sinking or floating.  These concepts can prove confusing for students.  Our fifth grade proved that when engaged and challenged they persevere and can learn complicated scientific understanding.




Up, Up and Away!!


Here are some photos from our final parachute design challenge.  It culminated with a drop off the roof with the help of our custodian Mustafa.  It was a breezy day and one of our lucky groups had the benefit of a gust sending their well designed parachute over the playground staying in the air for 13 seconds.  Longest time yet!  Over the next few weeks we will study air resistance and how it played a role in our design’s success.

Photos from the winning parachute.  It got lifted off across the schoolyard.  Can you find it??

Designing Walls

It’s amazing the way of the minds of children work.  A few weeks ago we started a STEM project about designing walls.  I began by showing them the pictures of walls from around the world and asking about how they were made and why people use walls.   The conversations we ended up engaging in were so rich, question provoking and personal.  Two students, who had never shared about their homeland before, elaborated on how the walls in Nepal were built and what is was like to live in a refugee camp.  One described the rain and how they bathed and rejoiced in it when it came.  It was such a treasure for our students to engage in real conversations and first hand accounts about other countries and hear about experiences they may never had even imagined were possible before.  I was so proud that these two students shared and the others listened.

The photos below are of students engaging in the science of the lesson.  Earlier in the year, these second graders engaged in a matter unit that focused on properties of different types of matter in their homerooms.  We built on this knowledge, making observations of three different earth materials and recording their properties.  They then made claims based on the evidence of their observations as to which earth materials would be most suitable for a strong and durable wall.   The investigation culminates with students creating their own 3 inch tall walls that we test for strength with a “wrecking ball”.




Video Presentations of Robots

A few months ago, fourth graders were given a challenge to create robots with Lego WeDo Robotic sets.  These sets are a user friendly and simplistic way to enter into the world of designing and building robots as well as coding them to do simple tasks.

The following videos were created by our Lego Robotic teams and shared at an all school assembly.  The challenge they were given was to create a robot that used either the motor or the sensor and solved a problem.  The ideas students came up with were varied and creative, many hoping to help humanity tackle problems.

Below are some of the videos they created.  Enjoy!

The Allure of Flying

In the last few weeks third graders have been studying the intrinsic allure of flying to humans throughout history.  It began by studying Leonardo DaVinci’s dreamt up flying machines drawn in 1500 and ended with observing the flying machines engineered by today’s dreamers.

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As students observed, discussed and began to consider design elements to add to their own flying machines, we talked about the role nature plays in the designs we studied.  Students noticed that many of the designs replicated the body’s of flying squirrels, birds and bats.   Together they made the connection between nature and many technologies that nature inspires.

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This week students drafted plans for their own flying machines that are symmetrical and 3 dimensional and began building.  Groups are collaborating, using their creativity and communicating with partners.  One student told me that his job was to move about the room to see what ideas he could bring back to his group that others are finding successful.

In the coming weeks, students will be testing their designs by videotaping them to see how long they stay in the air.  This data will be compiled and analyzed to use for improvements.   The culminating event will be a group send off of the flying machines in a competition-like atmosphere.


Sailing Center Partnership

Were you aware the Sailing Center located on Penny Street on beautiful Lake Champlain is moving to a new building?  Yes!  It’s true and exciting to residents such as I who have shuttled our kids to the Sailing Center for years now.  In addition to having a lovely new center, (if you’ve ever been to the current space you’ll know what I mean) the Center is building a large educational space for teaching lessons connected to sailing or lake stewardship in mind.

Last year, the Sailing Center became JJ Flynn’s official partner.  In doing so, I have been piloting and co-teaching their STEM connected lesson plans, intended to reach all BSD elementary schools in the future, to our fourth and fifth graders.  Over the past two weeks, one of the Sailing Center’s educators, Dayna McRoberts, has been visiting and working with our students on the tenants of the basics of wind, how and why we need to measure wind’s speed and direction.

Students are excited when they see Dayna, because some have been lucky to take classes at the Sailing Center and remember her from there.  Others, enjoy the excitement in change and are very happy to hear that soon, in fifth grade, they too, will be able to take a ride on one of the sailboats at the Center with their class.

Tomorrow students will be trying out their newly engineered wind vanes and anemometers to decide where the most wind is on our school property and why.  This lesson goes hand in hand with VEEP’s presentation today on renewable energy resources that the fourth grade was a part of.  I hope students can decide where, if we were to add one, the best place would be to erect a wind turbine on our school property after measuring and analyzing data.  Hope it’s as windy as it was today!