STEM hits all grade levels at St. Francis Middle School

This past summer all St. Francis Middle School science, math and technology teachers completed 32 hours of STEM training from the University of Minnesota.

Seventh-grade students Gabby Cable, Sammy Johnson and Logan Arntzen work on a STEM wetland project.Photo submitted
Seventh-grade students Gabby Cable, Sammy Johnson and Logan Arntzen work on a STEM wetland project. Photo submitted

STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and math. Students are learning and applying the engineering design process with STEM projects. They use the tools of technology along with math and science knowledge to complete engineering tasks.

STEM is basically having kids “do” in such a manner that they are able to incorporate and apply what they are learning into everyday life. It also gives students a chance to be creative, to think outside the box and to problem solve.

STEM projects engage students in real-world problems and to become problem solvers.

“Ultimately students are coming away with a better understanding of the math and science curriculum due to the hands on nature of STEM projects,” said Michaella Fennell, a seventh-grade science teacher.

• Sixth grade is creating a unit where students design hex bug mazes. Students use their knowledge of metric measurement to design a maze that their electronic hex bug can run through.

• Seventh grade already did a tissue paper parachute design challenge where students collected background data about what variables would affect how fast a parachute would fall. Then they had to design a parachute that met a target speed. Seventh grade is now working on a unit where students study the sources of water pollution along with the benefits of wetlands. Students use their knowledge of math area and perimeter calculating skills to design a floating wetland that will optimize the most plant growth per unit of area.

• Eighth grade is designing a unit around earthquakes, which is part of the eighth-grade earth science curriculum.

• In math classes, students will be exploring bridge designs and how bridges are different here than in some places like California.

• Technical education will be creating shake tables with kids to help them test stability of various structures. Students will also be doing a unit around rockets that will be completed in the spring.

Math, science and the technology department are currently involved. All students now have a technology course as one of their specials. As more units are developed and added, language arts and socials studies will become involved as well in STEM.