Fifth Grade Drop Everything and STEAM Week

by: Sandy Janack, Fifth Grade Social Studies Teacher
Shorecrest fifth graders spent a week integrating science, technology, engineering, arts and math during Drop Everything and STEAM Week. The week focused on students collaborating to solve science- and art-based challenges that mimic the structure and work of STEAM professionals in the real world.
The theme for the integrative week was Designing Kinetic Sculptures. Each morning the middle schoolers learned about an artist who incorporates physics principles into their artwork.
On Day 1 of STEAM Week, students learned about Alexander Calder, “father” of the mobile, along with the physics principles of center of mass, balance and energy that must be present to make a mobile work. Students then jumped into a design-thinking, collaborative challenge using the artist as a mentor. In this case, they applied their knowledge to their own mobile creations, building both symmetric and asymmetric mobiles.
On Day 2, students were inspired by Anne Lily, who uses gears in her artwork. Students learned about what drives many kinetic sculptures. Students created art using gears, meeting the criteria that two objects needed to interact as certain parts of the gears passed each other. Students learned about cams and how they related to gears, and used this knowledge to build a working automaton.
For the second year in a row, Shorecrest alumnus Chas Bronstein ‘13 presented on Day 3 of of STEAM Week. Since he works at Universal Studios, his presentation pertained to the physics forces behind the fun of roller coasters and the safety precautions (such as the use of magnetic brakes) that are used to keep roller coaster enthusiasts safe. After hearing his presentation, fifth graders created their own marble runs and identified the forces (potential energy and kinetic energy) used in them. Chas also assisted students as they learned about magnetic forces and created kinetic sculptures with magnets. Students greatly benefited from his knowledge and experience; a huge thank you to Chas for spending an entire day with fifth grade!
Fifth grade wrapped up learning about kinetic sculptures on Day 4 by learning about Rube Goldberg and his complicated contraptions that have many steps to accomplish a very simple task. Students went to town after reviewing the basic simple machines combined to make Rube Goldberg’s creative and over-complicated creations work. Their engineering and problem-solving skills were on full display as they figured out ways to push a pencil into a pencil pouch, deliver a dab of hand sanitizer, hang an ornament on a mini Christmas tree, or flip a light switch. All creations had to have at least 3 connected steps and incorporate 2 simple machines; many groups went above and beyond on this challenge!
The week wrapped up with a STEAM Showcase in which students shared their work from the week with family and friends. Afterwards, everyone enjoyed trying new snacks at an International Food Festival. Students and families sampled foods from around the world, representing the diverse backgrounds and ethnicities that exist in the grade level, as they celebrated a job well done during Drop Everything and STEAM Week.

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Shorecrest Preparatory School is a private, non-sectarian, coeducational, college preparatory day school for students preschool through high school, located in St. Petersburg, Florida.