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Tiger Talk: Elementary students are picking up more STEAM

Students at Pine River-Backus have enjoyed our first year of having a "STEAM" specialist in our building.

Teacher Ellie Malecha, our STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts and Mathematics) specialist, has provided students in grades K-4 with opportunities to create, collaborate, critically think and problem solve through various curriculum projects that require them to solve real-world situations.

Students get to spend approximately one hour of scheduled time in our STEAM Lab each week working on these. Here are some of the exciting projects and activities students at PR-B Elementary School have been working on.

• Kindergartners are learning about structure and function and the engineering design process. They created beanstalks based on "Jack and the Beanstalk," created houses based on "The Three Little Pigs" and blew them down, and created paintbrushes out of everyday materials. Students tested their paintbrushes to see how they worked, too.

These little ones have also been busy exploring coding on iPads, learning how to make an animation of animals in their habitats and other basics of computer programing. They are also given time to free build and are learning how to work together and be creative.

• Our first-grade students have spent a lot of time exploring light and sound. They played with sound and light in different mediums and created inventions using light and/or sound to help kids lost in the woods. They have also spent time learning how to do basic coding.

Students also created an animated scene from a fairy tale and wrote a story and animated it with an iPad. Soon they will be learning about the sun, moon and stars.

• Our second-graders have been learning about the properties of matter by exploring different materials as conductors or insulators. They created coolers to keep a popsicle frozen for an hour. They have also been introduced to video game-creating using iPads. It is fun to see their creative minds at work.

• Third-graders have been learning about the science of flight. They created gliders to carry "cargo" to a nation in need. They have also explored the concept of force, simple machines and how to build a compound machine to "rescue a tiger from a moat." Very fun.

• Fourth-grade students have been learning about potential and kinetic energy. They created a restraint to protect an egg as it was attached to a car and rolled into a wall. Students have also spent time learning to do basic coding. One of their projects they are working on has them creating a concussion test to help diagnose concussions.

We are very grateful for the support from our school board and school district to provide these learning opportunities for our students. It is through these learning experiences that we are hoping to continue to equip our students with 21st Century Learning skills.

If you are interested in learning more about our STEAM initiative or have ideas, let me know!