The St. Alphonsus-St. Patrick School Invention Convention was held on Thursday, January 25. Students from both 7th and 8th grade participated in the event. They began developing their inventions in October under the direction of Mrs. O’Hara, our junior high science teacher. The students first brainstorm to think of an original product that might serve a useful purpose, solve a problem, or fill a particular need. The final products represent months of hard work. The inventions were on display at this year's Open House and what a display it was! The gym was filled with ingenuity and creative problem solving. The student inventions came complete with market research and a marketing plan. Many observers decided that they would definitely like to buy some of the products on display!
The student inventions were judged by 16 teachers and community members based on criteria such as the originality and usefulness of the idea, the workmanship of the product prototype, the marketing plan, market research, and the creator’s response to the market research. The projects receiving special recognition were as follows:
Third place went to seventh grader Michael for his Foam Knee Pad Pants. There was a tie for second place by two eighth grade projects. Both Luke for The Clip Pocket and Regan for her Controlled Collar won second place honors.
Finally, first place honors went to seventh grade student Jacqueline for her Phone Leash.
In addition to the awards for the Inventions themselves, Mrs. Bruno also evaluated the display boards as effective communication tools. She applied the Illinois State standard goals and objectives for “Communicating”. The standards explain how students are to “express and interpret information and ideas.” Based upon elements of the goals and standards, the Invention Convention display boards are considered a valid and vital piece of communication and they were assessed for their effectiveness in this regard. The students chosen for this special certificate were seventh graders Caleb and Nick for their project entitled Your Super Phone and eighth grade Luke for his Clip Pocket project board.
Take a look at some photos of our young inventors with their unique and useful creations.
Our junior high students use our well-equipped Science Laboratory for constant discovery. Pictured here are just a few examples of the scientific inquiry processes that occur.
The sixth graders recently finished a chapter on matter and learned how the particles of a solid, liquid and gas are arranged and at what speed they move. The students then got to observe the movement up close. They placed food coloring drops in three different cups ( very hot water, ice water and room temperature water) and observed at different times how fast the particles of dye spread throughout the cups of water.
Seventh grade students have been reinforcing their science skills. They used the scientific method to predict, measure and observe the mixing of two unknown liquids. They also learned that a scientist does not set out to prove a hypothesis but rather to test it, and that sometimes the results just don't seem to add up. When combining 25 milliliters of liquid A and 25 milliliters of liquid B, they should have observed that the final volume did not equal 50 milliliters.
Finally, the eighth grade has been learning about physical and chemical changes and properties. They were able to actually observe those types of changes in action by viewing what happens when substances such as baking powder, baking soda, cornstarch and powdered sugar were mixed with liquids like water, vinegar and iodine. Students needed to determine which showed physical or chemical changes and which demonstrated soluble or reactive properties.
December 4-10 was National Computer Science Education Week. Along with millions of others, our students were invited to try to learn a bit about computer coding during a nationwide campaign to expose students to this important skill. The students had an opportunity to listen to short tutorials by famous personalities. These short instructional videos were designed to pique interest in computer science and guide the student’s coding experiences.
All of Mrs. Yakes’ students from PreSchool up through the 8th grade had the opportunity to try computer coding. Many tried the specially designed experiences that were based on MineCraft or Star Wars or familiar Disney movies. Students used Blockly (a simplified coding language) to create their programs and they were also able to reveal the actual coding language. Other students experimented with tutorials offered by Tynker and by Code.org. Some even tried their hand at more complex coding languages like Python, while our youngest students in PreK and Kindergarten used an iPad app called Kodable to get an introduction to programing concepts and problem solving.
On Wednesday of this special week, our fifth through eighth grade students were very fortunate to have the opportunity to meet and hear an actual Computer Scientist from Argonne National Laboratory. Haritha Siddabathuni Som shared information about her pathway to her career in computer science, offered encouragement to the students, and encouraged them to value and cherish this time in their life that is just dedicated to learning. Mrs. Som is a leader for the team that manages access to the supercomputing facility. Researchers who wish to gain access to the power of these huge computers must obtain a special access protocol from her team. The students learned a bit about the two super computers currently housed at Argonne and gained some appreciation for the power of these machines.
Computer coding lessons will be ongoing in the lab so that students can continue their opportunity to experience what it takes to make computers work and gain some appreciation for what computer scientists do to help make our world a better place. In the words of Bill Gates, every student should learn how to do computer coding because “it teaches you how to think and how to solve problems”, and those are very important skills indeed!
Our eighth-grade students are introduced to the art of designing airplanes through paper airplane constructions. The goal is for our students to learn aircraft design considerations and how engineers must test their designs to achieve success. They learn about the use of flaps that can be found on any airplane and their functions. This prepares students for the associated activity in which they first make and test several paper airplane designs.
The students pictured here experimented with constructing airplanes with flaps and without flaps and then investigated which flew farther. Each group of students used their own original designs and they carried out their trials using good scientific method.
The dedicated “mother hens” in Mrs. Gottardo’s first grade classroom were thrilled to welcome more than 20 baby chicks into the world this week. Beginning on Monday, May 8, the chicks began to peck their way out of the shells that have been carefully tended for 21 days. This is such a wonderful learning experience for not only the first grade, but for the whole school. Everyone loves to check in on the chicks!
The children will continue to observe the chick growth and development for another few weeks. Science is very thrilling when it happens before your eyes!
Fourth grade students conducted a STEM project that examined the effects of erosion on the land. Each group was give a pan of sand. The students then created caves volcanoes and other landforms in the sand. A paper cup with a tiny hole was taped to a ruler and place at the top of the pan. The pan was then tilted and water was poured into the cup. Students then observed the effect of the flowing water on the landforms and recorded the outcomes.
On Thursday, January 26, many weeks of preparation culminated in the school Science Fair for our seventh and eighth grade students. Under the guidance of St. Alphonsus/St. Patrick School junior high science teacher, Mrs. O’Hara, the students develop a hypothesis, design an experiment to test their hypothesis, conduct the experiment and analyze the results. A written report that includes a review of the literature about other similar studies accompanies the displays that are presented by the students at the science fair. Pairs of judges rate the student’s work and the scores are averaged and tallied to determine who will represent our school at the regional science fair. The science experiments were quite varied this year and showed excellent application of the scientific method. There were experiments that involved behavioral science, chemistry, physics, consumer science, material science, computer science, and even cellular molecular biology! The critical thinking and problem solving fostered by the science fair are very important skills that students need to have in their toolbox for life. Pictured here are the student projects along with their abstracts and their displays.
The Stock Market Game (SMG) program is used in thousands of classrooms nationwide to help teach core academic subjects while emphasizing the importance of long-term saving and investing. Students work together in teams to conduct research, invest their hypothetical $100,000 cash account and manage their portfolio over time. Through their participation, student teams gain practical knowledge about the markets, learning such concepts as risk and diversification. While the students think they’re playing a game, their teachers know they’re learning real-life economic and financial skills that will benefit them for years to come.
Ms. Burke, our junior high Math teacher, and Mrs. Yakes, our technology teacher, work together as a team at St. Als/St. Pats to bring this learning experience to our eighth grade students. They use the SMG program’s online educational resource library as a tool to enhance student engagement with math, language arts, social studies, business, and technology, while integrating investment concepts into their existing curriculum. The cross-curricular lessons and materials address many important learning standards.
During National Computer Science Education Week (December 5-9 this year) all of our students join millions of others around the world and attempt to learn a bit of computer coding and even some app invention. This has become a nationwide campaign to expose students to this important skill. The exercises the children participate in also fit very well into our STEM initiative (Science-Technology-Engineering-Math). The students listen to short tutorials by famous personalities and expert computer scientists as they attempt to complete the wide array of tutorials available. These short instructional videos are designed to pique interest in computer science and guide the student’s coding experiences.
All of Mrs. Yakes’ students from PreSchool up through the 8th grade are given the opportunity to try computer coding. Many tried this year’s specially designed tutorial based on the new Disney movie. Moana. Students used Blockly (a simplified coding language) to create their programs and they were able to reveal the actual coding language that lies beneath the blocks. Other students experimented with tutorials offered by Tynker and by Code.org. Some even tried their hand at more complex coding and App creation using the MIT App Inventor site. If you would care to check out this year’s possibilities for the Hour of Code, click these links to try your hand: Hour of Code 2016 and the MIT App Inventor.
These lessons will be ongoing in the lab so that students can continue their opportunity to experience computer coding and gain some appreciation for what computer scientists do to help make our world a better place. In the words of Bill Gates, every student should learn how to do computer coding because “it teaches you how to think and how to solve problems”, and those are very important skills indeed!
Why does a curve ball curve? Why does an airplane fly? Engineers manipulate air pressure in their designs to control and stabilize everything from rockets to helicopters to blimps. When designing airplane wings, they shape them so that they create lift. Even cars and trains are designed to take advantage of this principle, helping moving vehicles to stay on the ground at high speeds. What principle is this? The Bernoulli principle!!
Sixth and seventh grade students used Bernoulli’s principle in our science lab to manipulate air pressure in a series of STEM activities so its influence would be seen on everyday objects around us. The first activity was called the Paper Tent. With a simple piece of paper folded lengthwise and propped up, students hypothesized what would happen if they blew into the tent. Most thought the paper would fly up or lift into the air. Because the air moving through the inverted V has less pressure, and the outside has higher pressure, students found a different result.
During the second experiment students had to predict what would happen when they blew between two balloons suspended in the air. After recording their hypotheses and conducting the experiment, most found again their predictions did not match the results. In the third experiment, our students had to predict how to get a ping pong ball from one cup into another cup without touching either the ball or the cup. Our scientists in training were beginning to catch on to the effects of air pressure. The students learned to gently blow across the top of the cup with the ball in it. The air pressure moving across the top of the cup was less than the pressure inside the cup. The higher pressure inside the cup forces the ball to jump out of the cup and into the other one.
The students hopefully learned and can explain that air pressure decreases as the speed of air or velocity increases and that air pressure acts in all directions—not just down.