Students stepped off the buses at Big Shanty Intermediate School November 11 ready to build roller coasters, whip up “flubber” and extract fossils.
Their excitement turned into cheers when they saw Big Shanty’s curriculum and STEM specialist Betsey Olotka or as the students call her, “the STEM Lady.”
It was STEM Day at Big Shanty! Students were about to use what they had learned in the classroom to tackle Science Technology Engineering and Math scenarios.
“Right now we are learning about rocks and fossils. So, we are doing an activity based on fossils,” said Marcy Brooks, a Big Shanty third grade language arts teacher. “The students have to build a machine that will excavate fossils.”
The Big Shanty STEM leadership team determines the STEM activities by looking at course guides provided by the Cobb County School District.
“Our fourth graders are working a physics unit right now. So they are building roller coasters to learn about the force of motion,” explained Olotka. “Our fifth graders are studying physical and chemical changes. So they are actually making what we call ‘flubber.’”
This isn’t the first STEM event at Big Shanty, but the students participate in different STEM activities each time. The activities are all geared to the teachers’ current lesson plans.
“They are all standards-based, and there are different activities per grade level,” added Brooks.
For the prior STEM Day, third graders focused on weather and erosion while fourth graders brought the water cycle to life with their STEM project. Fifth graders learned about how to control destructive and constructive forces.
Olotka said, “We are STEM crazy here at Big Shanty!”
The night before the most recent STEM Day, Big Shanty hosted a STEM night event so parents could see what these lessons looks like in practice. Together, parents and their children made lava lamps and built structures out of marshmallows. So the Big Shanty students were already in STEM mode when they arrived at school the next morning.
The STEM activities teach more than science, technology, engineering and math. The students learn to work together, and they have to use their imaginations because they are limited to using specific items to complete the activity. For example, the third grade students had to determine how they were going to create their fossil excavator using only the supplies provided by the teacher.
“They have to plan as a team,” Brooks added.
As the students worked on their activities, they were not the only ones bubbling with excitement.
“I probably have as much fun as the kids do,” said Brooks.
The third grade teacher described how her favorite part of the day was being able to see the smiles on the students’ faces at the end of the day. She said the third graders are so excited to show of their stem projects that they can hardly contain themselves.
The students’ enthusiasm for what they learned and experienced on STEM Day stays with them after the school bell rings.
“When they go home, they will be telling their parents all weekend about the things they did on Friday at Big Shanty,” Olotka said smiling. “We love that because they are not just talking about having fun, they are also talking about what they learned.”
Dr. Sally Creel, Supervisor
STEM and Innovative Practice
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