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Windproof houses and trash collectors made of trash: students get creative through STEM

At North Godwin’s second STEM night, about 450 students and family members had the opportunity to explore different activities, such as making drawings with 3D pens and exploring coding

Godwin Heights — North Godwin Elementary third-grader Sara Alvarado Ramirez and her partner Cristal Dominguez-Lauriano knew the challenge: to build a house that could withstand a windstorm. 

Their first attempt failed as their house rolled away when a large fan was used to create the windstorm.

“There were no rocks, so we taped and rolled the rocks in the tape to make the structure a little bit heavier,” Sara said. “We then added more tape to the structure as it was coming off.”

With those changes, the second time their house faced a windstorm, it remained standing.

Last year, North Godwin implemented STEM — science, technology, engineering and math — throughout its building, focusing on design thinking and engineering. The goal being that students, who are in third through fifth grades, would work on nine different STEM projects during their three years at the school, said Karen Baum, the school’s instructional specialist. 

In the second year of its school-wide STEM program, this fall all 16 North Godwin classes participated in grade-level design challenges where they defined a problem and prototyped solutions with partners, Baum said. 

In third grade, students designed weatherproof houses. Fourth-graders created instruments out of recycled materials, a project based on the book “Ada’s Violin” by Susan Hood. Fifth-grade students had the task of how to stop single-use plastics and save animals from plastic pollution in the ocean. 

Students used cardboard and materials in STEM kits donated by program sponsor Gordon Food Service, Baum said. The students wore their Innovator Badges when working on STEM projects so they would see themselves as future designers and engineers, she said. 

Giving All Students the Chance to Explore STEM

Ginger Rohwer, regional director of MiSTEM Network’s Greater West Michigan Region, which with Kent ISD has partnered with North Godwin, said because the program is offered during the day, all students have an opportunity to participate, versus a limited few if it were made available as an after-school program. This gives all students the opportunity to build habits that can be used in any subject, plus skills in creativity, communication and collaboration along with social-emotional skills such as empathy, Rohwer said. 

“We want to help students see themselves as problem-solvers and innovators, and we want to intentionally build relationships with community partners that can help our students see how their STEM work is relevant in the world,” she said. 

Fifth-grader Khariyah Leal said the STEM project encouraged her to be more creative. She and her partner, Seth Hunt, built a container out of trash that went around picking up, you guessed it, trash. 

“It was an idea that just came to us,” Khariyah said.

Fourth-grader Keriem Sarez said he always wanted a guitar and was excited about building one out of recycled materials, which was his grade-level STEM project. 

“In my head, I just knew I had to be as creative as possible, so I took toilet paper rolls, rubberbands, and started making a guitar,” Keriem said. “I didn’t get to add any sound as I ran out of time.”

During a recent STEM Night, family and community members could see the results of the various projects students worked on. Guests also participated in several STEM activities such as drawing with 3D pens, building with LEGOs and other blocks, creating tornadoes, and seeing if they could build their own houses out of toothpicks and DOTS candy that could withstand a windstorm.

“Here it goes,” said fourth-grade teacher Aleesha DeVries as she turned on the fan. “Look at that. It’s staying up!”

Read more from Godwin Heights: 
Framing the future
In these houses, all belong

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Joanne Bailey-Boorsma
Joanne Bailey-Boorsma
Joanne Bailey-Boorsma is a reporter covering Kent ISD, Godwin Heights, Kelloggsville, Forest Hills and Comstock Park. The salutatorian for the Hartland Public Schools class of 1985, she changed her colors from blue and maize to green and white by attending Michigan State University, where she majored in journalism. Joanne moved to the Grand Rapids area in 1989, where she started her journalism career at the Advance Newspapers. She later became the editor for On-the-Town magazine, a local arts and entertainment publication. Her eldest daughter is a nurse, working in Holland, and her youngest attends Oakland University. Both are graduates from Byron Center High School. She is a volunteer for the Van Singel Fine Arts Advisory Board and the Kent District Library. In her free time, Joanne enjoys spending time with her family, checking out local theater and keeping up with all the exchange students they have hosted through the years. Read Joanne's full bio

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