Mar 31, 2014 Joe Genco Uncategorized
The halls and classrooms of Waterman Primary School were buzzing with activity on March 26 as Skaneateles teachers and students from all grades exhibited science, technology, engineering and math programs.
The event, dubbed “STEMAhead,” was the district’s first-ever open house that gave parents and members of the community an opportunity to see some of the unique programs that go on inside the schools, particularly those facilitated by technology that wasn’t available a generation ago.
Interim Superintendent of School Judy Pastel said the idea behind the event was to “unzip” the classroom and allow members of the community to see firsthand some of the things that take place.
“I wanted us to have an open house with STEM and technology across the disciplines because there is such great teaching and learning going on in the classrooms,” she said.
The event was presented in partnership with the Skaneateles Education Foundation which has provided the district with many grants that have allowed for the purchase of new equipment, Pastel said.
Most recently the foundation, along with the Elementary Parent Teacher Committee, provided the district with a set of GolidBlox, a learning tool designed help teach engineering skills to elementary-age girls.
Late last year the foundation also announced a partnership with the Elsa and Peter Soderberg Charitable Foundation, who will help with grants for STEM programs and technology.
Using new technology and teaching methods in the elementary schools was one theme of the evening. In Cafeteria B, fifth grade students demonstrated their use of programming software that works with Lego robots, while elsewhere pathologists Cheryl Tompkins and Laura Vincent demonstrated how Waterman students can participate in speech therapy programs using iPad apps.
In addition to highlights of the mandatory curriculum, the open house featured class work from elective classes and some extra-curricular clubs and programs.
Members of the high school’s technology club displayed an electric car that will compete in an upcoming
“Electrothon” competition at Watkins Glen.
Senior Jake Regan said he has worked on the car along with the club as a part of his senior project for Engineering Design and Development (EDD), the final class in the elective Project Lead the Way engineering classes.
While the technology club built the car, Regan tackled the task of designing and building from scratch a new carbon fiber frame, which will be lighter and more efficient.
“It’s a lot of fun, but it’s definitely a learning experience figuring out exactly how to do all of this,” Regan said.
At the competition, the car will be tested to see how many laps it can do on a track with one charge of its batteries.
Another display highlighted acoustic and electric mandolins constructed as a part of Computer Industrial Manufacturing, a class taken by mostly sophomores. Students use a combination of computer software and hand-operated equipment to design, cut and shape the wood for the instruments.
Seniors Maria Schillacc and Adam Leesman said they are expanding on the mandolin project for their senior EDD project by experimenting with different materials, including carbon fiber, to see how they will affect the sound of the final product.
Though he plans to pursue other studies in college, Leesman said his interest in engineering classes started back in middle school when he worked with Lego Mindstorm robots as a part of a technology class every student in the district takes.
Technology teacher Matt Slauson said the electric car and the mandolin projects were made possible in part by ALLRed Associates, an Elbridge-based company that provided the school with the carbon fiber material.
Three students gave STEM talks in the Waterman library during the open house. STEM talks, a program that is new this year, involves students conducting research and then preparing a 15-minute speech relating their findings. The STEM talks are not a part of a class or in the curriculum, but a voluntary program that allows students to develop “soft skills,” like public speaking, science teacher Rick Garrett said.
“So many times in college you write a paper and that really does nothing. You just write a paper. What this is, is actually presenting your argument verbally, and that I always felt was so important,” Garrett said.
So far the talks have been done by high school sophomores and, prior to the open house, were presented during the high school activity period. Criteria for the talks include making the subject matter understandable for any audience, showing real world applications, using humor and involving the audience in the presentation.
Vincent Viego gave a talk titled “Does an Apple a Day Keep the Doctor Away?” Viego talked about how modern diets are heavy in carbohydrates and gluten, which have been shown by research to cause type II diabetes and other health problems. Since they contain sugar, the old adage about apples may be misleading, Viego concluded.
Aimee LaFrance gave a talk titled “Personalities” during which she explained theories on different personality types and how people can use knowledge about their personality to work well with others or to pick a career.
Kaitlyn Neal gave a talk titled “Your Perception is your Reality,” that dealt with the matter of how each person’s perception of the world affects their brain chemistry.
Joe Genco is the editor of the Skaneateles Press. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.