Right before spring break, the 4th grade teachers at Fellows Elementary created STEM challenges for their students with hands-on activities that presented students with a “problem” to solve and limited resources.

Christy Franco said, “We decided to do the STEM challenges for several reasons. We know students learn best with hands-on exploration. For these activities, they must collaboratively come up with a plan, try it out, revise as needed, and test it. The STEM challenges allow our students to integrate scientific inquiry, technology, engineering, and math.”

All four teachers combined the approximately 100 fourth graders and split them up. “We wanted to make this large group feel like a community and we want students to have the opportunity to work in groups with others they don’t normally get to work with during the school day,” said Franco.

Mr. Mason’s room used wax paper, tape, and plastic dinosaurs to create parachutes that they launched off the second floor to try to hit a target. Mrs. Huston’s group did a “Bungee Barbie” experiment where they tested how close the doll to bungie to the ground using rubber bands. Mrs. Mattingly’s room built paper towers using magazine paper and staples and test their height and strength. Mrs. Franco’s group built towers over two feet tall out of straws and a limited amount of tape that could hold a tennis ball.

The two day activity was a great exercise in collaborative learning and cooperation for the fourth grade students. Beyond the STEM projects, it became a great way for the teachers to step back from instruction for a bit and let kids guide their thinking. Many teachers observed students in leadership positions as they guided their groups.