- Sponsorship -

Marshmallows Prove STEM Careers Are Not Puff Jobs

Marshmallows, toothpicks and masking tape may seem unlikely tools to persuade Appleview Elementary students in the direction of STEM careers, but Melissa Utter had an idea.

The fifth-grade math and social studies teacher said demand for jobs in the U.S. related to science, technology, engineering and math continues to swell. And because demand is outpacing the number of people filling those jobs, STEM career employees earn 25 percent more than their non-STEM counterparts.

Helping Children Develop STEM Skills at Home

  • Play number games like Sequence Numb3rs, Yahtzee, Milles Bournes, Monopoly or Multiplication War
  • Watch for cool inventions on the Internet or news media and discuss them over dinner
  • Encourage curiosity and research
  • Spend computer time on Khan Academy
Source: Free Rice

“STEM careers are our best and brightest hope,” Utter said. “Demand for STEM employees is expected to far exceed the supply that is currently projected in the United States.”

Plus, nearly all STEM skills can be traced back to success in mathematics, added Appleview Elementary Principal Mike Birely.

Glittery Microscopes

It’s for those reasons that glittery plastic syringes, beakers, test tubes and microscopes dangled from the school’s suspended ceiling. The sparkling scientific instruments were there to catch students’ eyes.

Next to them were around 80 index cards with STEM-related careers printed on them including software engineer, manufacturing and chemical engineers, biomedical research and physics. This could be your future, Utter told the students.

And yes, marshmallows played a role at Appleview in guiding young students toward those STEM careers.

A recent challenge was for students to form small groups and — with a bag of mini marshmallows, 75 toothpicks, a 12-inch roll of masking tape, two paper clips, two marbles and four index cards — build the highest freestanding skyscraper they could construct.

Sparta High School’s Science Olympiad lent a hand judging the competitions and serving as scientific mentors.

Points were earned by whichever team built the highest freestanding structure without it toppling. Additional points were earned for the design.

It’s MAD Math Month

The skyscraper challenge was part of a month-long initiative in April dubbed “Math Month with a MAD science theme.” Utter said MAD is uppercased not because it’s an acronym, but to dedicate a month to math and science.

“Everyone knows March is Reading Month,” Utter said. “I started banging the gong to celebrate Math Month.”

And as students soon discovered, constructing a weight-bearing skyscraper isn’t as easy as it sounds, due in part to the deliciousness of the building materials.

Keep Them Out of Your Mouth

“They’re not for eating, but we’re stressed,” fourth-grader Noe Jaimes said. “If we make it tall enough, we’ll probably get some points for making it tall. We should use less tape. We don’t want to use too much tape.”

Third-grader Liliana Steinbrecher decided her team should go the other direction and apply as much tape as possible. It proved difficult both to keep itfrom toppling and to not compare themselves to other teams.

“Stuff more marshmallows to the base,” Liliana advised her teammates. “The tower must stand on its own. Look at those smart people over there.”


Bedtime Math

- Sponsorship -


District welcomes new administrators, ready to ‘lead through uncharted waters’

New administrators share their thoughts on starting their posts during a pandemic...

Teacher and coach applies lessons in classroom and on field

New Kelloggsville head football coach Brandon Branch also teaches science and math at the high school and looks to bring academics and athletics together whenever he can...

Two high schools, newly renovated, await return of students

Two major renovation projects at Ottawa Hills and Union high schools are part of a 30-year, $175 million school improvement bond approved November 2015 with the majority, $155 million, earmarked for construction...

Avid reader, Petoskey-stone hunter, lover of great outdoors

Melanie Hoeksema is the new Ada Elementary principal. SNN gets to know her in this edition of Meet Your Principal...


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Related Articles

Open spaces key to new middle school

The new building is designed for collaborative learning but its unique open spaces can be utilized for increased social distancing demands during the pandemic...

Here come the students; schools try to be ‘prepared for everything’

Area school districts have to be able to switch instruction plans if the pandemic fires up again, and be prepared for the possibility of a COVID-19 outbreak in one of their schools...

Families need to choose either full-time virtual or in-school learning

The Sparta reopening plan is an either-or proposition between face-to-face instruction or virtual learning...
- Sponsorship -


Engagement: The Most Important Measure of Student Success

Polls find that students’ engagement in their school work declines as they ascend the grades. Tests that don’t relate to their real-life experiences exacerbate the problem...


Food ‘angels’ support hungry kids through pandemic

They work all across Kent County, guardian angels with peanut butter on their hands and crumbs on their shirtsleeves...
- Sponsorship -


Maranda Where You LiveWGVU