by Elyse Kaner
Students at Northpoint Elementary School in Blaine are taking a hands-on interest in science and engineering.
The K-3 students recently participated in the school’s second annual STEM fair (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) to celebrate a year of STEM learning activities in the classrooms.
All students as part of the fair activities had the opportunity to build and try out their creations – hoop gliders, kazoo-like Sound Sandwiches and kaleidoscopes at four stations set up in the school’s gymnasium. They also built miniature bridges from Legos.
“It promotes their engineering skills, building at all the stations,” said first-grade teacher Lorrie Murdy.
The school incorporates STEM standards into its daily instruction in all grades, but holds a STEM fair to pique students’ interest and to get them even more involved in a hands-on, week-long fair.
STEM lessons emphasize creating and problem solving, said Kristen Bertschinger, K-3 lead teacher at Northpoint.
“The main focus of STEM in the elementary schools is inquiry,” she said.
Parent volunteer Robin Sweno, was manning the kaleidoscope station at the fair.
Kids designed the instruments with such materials as a tube made from construction paper, a paper cup and a clear plastic sheet folded into a triangle. They drew a design with magic markers on the inside bottom of the cup. They inserted the triangle inside the paper tube, placed it inside the cup and held it to the light. When they peeked through the tube and twisted the cup, they were rewarded with a dazzling array of designs.
“It’s amazing at how you can take simple things from the home and make it into a science project and things for kids to learn with,” Sweno said.
The hoop gliders were made of straws and paper. Students first made airplanes from paper. They next added straws to make them more aerodynamic and flew them throughout the gymnasium.
Sound Sandwiches were constructed from popsicle sticks, rubber bands and construction paper.
Students also built arch and flat bridges. The idea was to build a structure that could support items, toy cars, for example.
The fair was the culmination of Northpoint’s 2012-13 STEM activities.
“It was the way to give kids one last scoop of STEM for the year,” Bertschinger said.
Forty parent volunteers and staff from Anoka-Ramsey Community College helped operate the four building stations in the gymnasium.
In addition to problem solving, the STEM lesson activities foster skills in cooperation and persistence. Additionally, they teach content skills, such as describing parts of a whole and offering a comparison of student projects.
When asked about the early age of introducing STEM activities to elementary-age children, Bertschinger said: “They’re ready for it. We see them take off. They’re always building things, so why not bring it into the school setting?”
Elyse Kaner is at