The world before Google, Julia Child as a spy, and how the sports world changed when a ball was thrown into a half bushel basket, are just a few things Appleview fifth graders could tell you about on the final day of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) month.
“I loved STEM month, because we got to do cool things all month long,” said fifth-grader Elle Fonnesbeck, who researched Julia Child, best known for French cooking. She was excited to share the story that Child developed a repellent for sharks during WWII while working as a researcher for the OSS (Office of Strategic Services).
Some of those “cool things,” according to Elle, were figuring out how to keep a penny floating for 10 seconds and finding DNA samples by spitting into a cup and adding alcohol, explained Kate Kober.
Kate chose to focus on Louis Braille in the final presentation because, “I love to read and he figured out a way for blind people to read.”
This is the second year STEM month culminated in a Wax Museum, which involves students dressing up as notable scientists, engineers, mathematicians, or technology innovators.
STEM month is held in April, said fifth-grade teacher Melissa Utter, to celebrate math, like schools celebrate reading in March. She said she was inspired by Read Across America and related reading celebrations held every year in March. “I wanted students to be excited about math, too,” she said.
“It seemed that many students perceived math as intimidating or just not fun. That’s not how I want students to view my very favorite subject,” she said.
The first STEM Month celebration seven years ago was solely focused on math, and now activities have expanded as Utter included related disciplines.
Now each year, students are immersed in activities designed to inspire them to learn about and perhaps consider careers in STEM fields. Each week brings a new math and/or coding challenge, as well as an engineering challenge. Classrooms compete for prizes.
Utter said she is always on the hunt for new design challenges and lab activities for the special month. She relies on School Education Foundation grants for helping provide the extras.
Another hallmark of STEM month is making sure everyone, regardless of math proficiency or confidence, has equal opportunity to earn fun prizes. “It is really important that all of our students can experience success, even if math is not their area of greatest comfort,” she said.