STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. It is important because these disciplines pervade every part of our lives nowadays. Science is everywhere in the world around us. Technology is continuously expanding into every aspect of our lives. Engineering helps build our roads and bridges, tackles global weather changes, and develops environmentally friendly changes to our buildings and homes. Mathematics is used in just about every occupation and every activity we do in our lives.
By exposing our students  to STEM lessons and giving them opportunities to explore STEM-related concepts, we hope that they will become successful in our technological society and develop knowledge and understanding of the disciplines that help build our world. 

STEM at St. Als /St. Pats: Eighth Grade Airplane Design

The eighth-graders have been learning about the scientific method. Their task in a recent experiment was to design two paper airplanes, one with flaps and one without. When creating their plane, they needed to include each step of the scientific method, carry out the actual experiment, collect their data and form their overall conclusion based on their data.

STEM at St. Als /St. Pats: Kindergarten Chicka Chicka Boom Trees

Recently, our Kindergarten students participated in a great STEM activity. They listened to the story Chicka Chicka Boom and then built trees inspired by the story. They used wooden blocks and large craft sticks to construct their trees. Then their challenge was to test the strength of their tree by balancing as many plastic letters as they could on their tree branches. All of the students met the goal of balancing at least ten letters on their tree!

STEM at St. Als/St. Pats: Eighth Grade Animation Projects

The eighth grade students worked hard to create short animation videos for their final project this year. This was a multistep project that took some time to complete. First, each team of animators had to create a storyboard to plan out their production. Then, the students had to fashion characters either from non-drying clay or legos. The characters and any backdrops that they created helped them to to tell their story.

The students used an iPad app called My Create to shoot their animation footage. For some of the projects, many hundreds of shots were taken using the app. The video footage was uploaded to the desktop computers via dropbox and then the young animators did some final editing, voice overs or captions in Windows Movie Maker.

This project called upon the students to use lots of creativity, problem solving, and perseverance. All concluded that animation is way harder to accomplish than it looks, but most were pleased with their first foray into this technology. They all came away with new admiration for such films as Toy Story, Chicken Run and Shaun the Sheep now that they understand what must have gone into those productions. We learned one "gee-whiz fact" when we found out that it took 400 animation artists 40 months to complete Chicken Run, which is a full length feature film that uses claymation.

Take a look at some of the eighth grade animation creations by visiting this website: Eighth Grade Animators.

STEM at St. Als/St. Pats: Hatching Chicks!

The dedicated “mother hens” in Mrs. Gottardo’s first grade classroom and Mrs. O’Hara’s Science Lab were thrilled to welcome many baby chicks into the world during the week of May 7. Beginning on Monday, May 7, the chicks began to peck their way out of the shells that have been carefully tended for 21 days.

In the first grade classroom, the eggs were manually turned three times per day by Mrs. Gottardo. The Science lab used an incubator awarded from a grant that Mrs. O’Hara and Mrs. Gottardo applied for. That incubator was equipped with an automatic egg turner.  Both hatcheries were quite successful. The first grade classroom welcomed 22 baby chicks and 16 hatched in the Science Lab.

The children will continue to observe the chick growth and development for another week or so. The whole school gets excited about watching this miracle of life (in fact, the first chick to hatch in the Science Lab was named Miracle). Science is very thrilling when it happens before your eyes!

Time Lapse Videography of the Chicks Hatching

St. Alphonsus/St. Patrick School Chick Hatches Spring 2018 from Mrs. Yakes on Vimeo.

STEM at St. Als/St. Pats: PreK and Their Buddies Experiment with Peeps

The sixth grade students joined with their preschool buddies to do some science experiments using everyone's favorite Easter candy--- Peeps!  They observed peeps using their five senses.  The students predicted whether peeps would sink or float in water. Then they created a solution of baking soda and vinegar and tested the peeps' reaction in that fluid. They mixed peep colors by placing two different colored peeps in water to see if the peep colors made the water a new color. The young scientists also observed whether  water, vinegar, soda or juice changed the peeps in any way by placing one in each of the four liquids.  The buddies concluded that not only is science fun, it can be tasty too!

STEM at St. Als/St. Pats: Invention Convention 2018

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.

STEM at St. Als / St. Pats: Junior High Science Classes

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.

Sixth Grade Physical Science Discovery

Seventh Grade Science Skills

Eighth Grade Physical and Chemical Change Study

STEM at St. Als/St. Pats: Hour of Code 2017

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 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!

Visit Mrs. Yakes’ Hour of Code Website if you would like to try some computer coding yourself!

STEM at St. Als/St. Pats: Eighth Grade Airplane Design

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. 

STEM at St. Als/St. Pats School: Science Safety Songs

Each year, Mrs. O'Hara challenges her eighth grade science students to review the science lab safety rules in a creative and entertaining way. Captured here on video are the safety rules set to song by the students. The students did a fine job performing their musical parodies and taught important lessons along the way.

STEM at St. Als/St. Pats: Fourth Grade Scientists

Our fourth grade scientists learned the parts of a Microscope and prepared their own slides for viewing. Their objective was to see that onions, like all living things, are composed of many individual cells. The students made careful observations, drew what they saw through the microscope, and then recorded their findings. Being able to make accurate observations and to record data are key elements of scientific discovery!

Chromebooks Add to Our Technology Integration for Learning

We are pleased to offer a one to one Chromebook program for our junior high students in sixth through eighth grade.These devices enable teachers to deliver content and learning opportunities enhanced by technology all day long. They will further boost student's technology skills and empower our children to do increasingly complex and creative work.
There are additional Chromebooks available in the Collaborative Learning Center so that children in grades three through five can also have occasional experiences with these devices.  Our students experience computer use on regular PC computers, iPads, and now also Chromebooks. They will be prepared for a variety of technology platforms when they leave our school.

STEM at St. Als/St. Pats: Our Eclipse Experience

Thanks to some early planning by our Science teacher, Mrs. O'Hara, our third through eighth grade students were able to view the eclipse that occurred on August 21. The students used special viewing glasses and the the clouds broke just in time for us to get a clear view of the eclipse. Students learned ahead of time about the unique set of circumstances that needed to align in order for the eclipse to occur. Our youngest students also participated by watching the NASA coverage of the eclipse in the Collaborative Learning Center. There are plans to share our viewing glasses with school children in Chile where an eclipse will occur in 2019. Events such as this connect us to other parts of our country and other parts of the world and universe.

STEM at St. Als / St. Pat's: Chicks Hatch in the First Grade!

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!

Celtics Excel: Young Scientists Bring Home Gold from the State Science Fair

On Saturday, May 6, four of our seventh graders participated in the Illinois State Science Fair at Northern Illinois University. There were approximately 1,200 participants and 1,000 projects! The projects were all awarded a points score and then were awarded either a gold, silver or bronze certificate.
All of our Celtic Scientists did an outstanding job and represented our school so well.

Luke A. received a GOLD certificate for his project "The Music in You, Does Music Affect Your Heart and Soul". Ian M. received a GOLD certificate for his project "Placebo Effect". Julia P. and Scarlett O. received a GOLD certificate for their project "Who Remembers More: Males/Females." 
Illinois State Science Fair, Celtics Excel
Illinois State Science Fair, Celtics Excel
Illinois State Science Fair, Celtics Excel
Illinois State Science Fair, Celtics Excel
Illinois State Science Fair, Celtics Excel
Illinois State Science Fair, Celtics Excel
Illinois State Science Fair, Celtics Excel
Illinois State Science Fair, Celtics Excel

STEM at St. Als/St. Pats: Chemical Element Modeling

As part of their course of study in Science, our eighth grade students learn about Chemical elements. They recently worked on creating three dimensional models of selected elements.  As they created these models they  demonstrated their understanding of protons, neutrons and electrons that form the orbital atomic structure of the element. 

STEM at St. Als/St. Pats: Erosion Experiments

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.

STEM at St. Als/St. Pats: A Visit to Argonne National Laboratory

On February 28, our junior high students had the privilege to visit Argonne National Laboratory. First the students were taken to the Argonne Learning Labs. Each room in the lab is named after a famous scientist and the staff here is dedicated to helping students understand the science that is being done at Argonne, particularly for developing clean, renewable energy sources and ways to store generated power for future use.

The student groups rotated through three different STEM lessons at the learning lab where they experimented with harnessing wind power to create electricity, potential and kinetic energy, and extracting hydrogen to power a fuel cell that could then light a bulb or run a small car! The students had to apply the scientific method as they experimented. They learned that scientists usually narrow their focus to one aspect of a problem or design question and then they collaborate with other scientists who are working on other pieces of the puzzle to create a solution born of a collective wisdom.
One of our parents, Mr. Skwarek, took time out of his workday to give our students a tour of the Argonne Advanced Photon Source, "a remarkable scientific tool that helps researchers illuminate answers to the challenges of our world, from developing new forms of energy to sustaining our nation's technological competitiveness to pushing back the against the ravages of disease." The students learned that researchers from all over the world come to use this amazing facility. It was a fascinating field trip and a great chance to observe science in action for the real world!

Field Trip to Argonne National Laboratory

STEM at St. Als/St. Pats: Building a House of Cards

The eighth grade students recently finished their study of forces. Using what they learned, they were asked to construct houses out of decks of cards. The class was challenged to see which construction could hold the most weight. They had to use careful design principles and some trial and error to create the strongest structure. Note that the strongest playing card house was able to withstand the force of 2700 grams!

STEM at St. Al's/St. Pats: Homemade Anemometers

The fourth graders have been  studying weather in Science. They made their own Anemometers out of a paper plate, cups, a spool of thread and a stick .Then they took their creations outside and tested their work. An Anemometer measures wind speed. The students counted how many times the Anemometer turned during a one minute interval to calculate the wind speed The students then recorded their results and assessed the effectiveness of their design. 

Fourth Grade Anemometers

STEM at St. Als/St. Pats: The Science Fair 2017

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. 

STEM at St. Als/St. Pats: The Stock Market Game

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.

STEM at St. Als/St. Pats: Hour of Code 2016

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 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!

STEM at St. Als/St. Pats: Experiments with the Bernoulli Principle

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.

STEM at St. Als/St. Pats: First Grade STEM Lesson

Alumni Madison Wall, Class of 2009, returned to our first grade recently to share a STEM Lesson (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math). The lesson, called the Balancing Robot, helped the first graders understand balance and center of gravity. The children colored their robots and then used two pennies to find the center of gravity. They tried balancing their robots in many ways and in many places around the room.
Madison is taking a course entitled Broadening Participation in STEM and was happy to share her expertise with us. She will graduate from Loyola University in December with a degree in Math and Computer Science. She will continue at the University to receive her Masters degree in Secondary Education with a Mathematics endorsement. 

Balancing Robots in First Grade