Holy Cross students immersed in STEM education
By David Karas/CorrespondentWhether it involves evaporation or 3-D printing, energy transfer or the formulation of scientific questions, students in Holy Cross School, Rumson, encounter Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) throughout their curricula – and they love every minute of it.
Working toward Next Generation Science Standards, teachers in the Rumson school are collaborating to integrate STEM learning across grade levels and classrooms. And the availability of two fully-equipped science labs and stateof- the-art technology – including smart boards, individual student laptops, a virtual reality lab and 3-D printer – are contributing to the interactive learning experience for students. “The students are very enthusiastic about working on the projects,” said Kathleen Chadwick, who teaches sixth, seventh and eighth grade mathematics and engages her students in STEM projects on Fridays. “The creativity of the students promotes innovative think- ing, (and) the students also gain critical thinking through problem solving.”
Recently, Chadwick challenged her eighth grade students working on an advanced math project to create a blueprint design of a water amusement park. They identified each attraction using ordered pairs, found the slope and midpoint, calculated distance and wrote a linear equation to find the point of intersection between each attraction.
When those steps were completed, they created 3-D printed models of their water park rides.
“We were able to learn new formulas, such as the midpoint formula, and we used them to construct a 3D model,” said Orianna Nolan. Her group’s park included three slides, a whirlpool, a toddler play area and a lazy river, not to mention concession stands – all of which were plotted for slope and distance. Meanwhile, fifth graders in Mary DeBiasi’s science class were presented with an unknown substance – citric acid – and challenged to use its properties to identify it.
Students worked to determine its solubility, comparing their results to a table of known solubility for several substances. They then evaporated the solution and compared the resulting crystals to images of substances to confirm their identification. The project challenged the young men and women to create scientific questions, develop and use models, investigate their hunches, analyze data and craft explanations for their findings.
Michelle Tomaino challenged her sixth graders to a STEM-inspired ecology project, in which they used the Google Classroom platform on their laptops to graphically design a trophic pyramid. The students used mathematics to track energy flow, calculate the loss of energy, analyze data and determine the relationship between the trophic level and percentage of available energy to various organisms in a food chain.
The groups then created models of their ecosystems to engage five- to seven-year-olds, with the goal of teaching their peers in the preschool and kindergarten classes to the terms “biotic,” “abiotic” and “energy transfer,” as well as the dynamics of energy flow. Sixth grader Macy Swanton commented on how the project exposed her to what it would be like to work as an educator. “I liked how it felt to be a teacher,” she said, adding that the project has helped energize her interest in studying the various sciences as she continues in school.