For most of us growing up, Saturday mornings were meant for sleeping in or watching mindless cartoons for hours on end. School on a Saturday was unheard of and not even on our radar. However, ask any of our students here at NSCS about attending school on a Saturday studying things like science, technology, engineering, or math and their eyes light up and there is a palpable excitement to the potential adventure that awaits. At NSCS, STEM Saturdays mean exploration, investigation, critical thinking, problem solving, and doing amazing experiments with friends, mentors and teachers. Last month our students had the opportunity to sign up for STEM Saturday to pursue the study of propulsion, light, energy, matter, density, and ocean salinity. Here are some of the activities and experiments that we engaged in during our last STEM Saturday.
In January, our STEM Saturday, began by breaking students into three groups by grade to take part in age appropriate activities and experiments. Our youngest learners joined our second grade teacher, Ms. Patton, in the study of propulsion. Each child was given materials that, when combined, would create a simple car driven by the power of a twisted rubber band and a propeller. After decorating and constructing each car, the students had a chance to test out the dynamics of how fast and far their car would travel given the number of times the rubber band was twisted. They quickly learned that the more tension and twists given to the band, the further they could get their cars to go. By the end of morning, the group met in the hallway to see just whose car could travel the furthest. Ask your students about this experiment and just how far the cars went.
Our third, fourth, and fifth graders joined Ms. Gourley, in the exploration of refraction of light. The students began by learning about how a light refracts and how the angle of that refraction can be changed. They also found out about terms such as transparency, translucency, and opaqueness. Then they were given a problem or scenario to solve. The scenario asked the students to be engineers who must design a tool that allows patrons at a library to see the titles of books on the highest shelves without using a ladder or stool. Once they were given a few materials including: poster board, dowels, two mirrors, paper, and a flashlight, they began their design journey that, for most, turned into a type of periscope that used the knowledge that they learned about light refraction to see the books on the tip top shelves! Ask your students how they used the mirrors in their particular periscope.
Our middle schoolers worked with Ms. Stutz to delve into the topic of water density and how the level of displacement is affected by salinity. Once students did some initial investigation about how an object displaces water differently according to the density of that water, they began their scenario. The middle schoolers were asked to think like an engineer and scientist to design and create three prototypes of boats that would be tested for the ability to float and hold “cargo” (marbles) in two “oceans” (tubs of water) that differ in their level of salinity. Our intrepid scientists began by examining the materials they could use, brainstorming a boat design and then building it based on what they had just learned. As each student tested their prototypes in the ocean, the group came together to cheer each student and boat on. Ask your student what designs worked and what designs sunk.
Join us next time we host a STEM Saturday and find out how fun school can be – even on a Saturday!