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: 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