Drop Everything and STEAM Week

by: Dana Kollman, Fifth Grade English Teacher
During the fifth grade’s annual Drop Everything and STEAM Week, students collaborated to solve science- and art-based challenges integrating science, technology, engineering, art and math. The activities were structured to mimic the work of STEAM professionals in the real world. 

The theme for the integrative week was Designing Kinetic Sculptures. Students used recyclable materials in their kinetic projects. Students learned about the engineering design process, and each activity led students through the 8 steps of identifying, investigating, imagining, planning, creating, testing, improving and communicating. These steps helped students create various kinetic projects while using specified criteria and constraints. 

In one activity 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. 
 
Students were also inspired by Anne Lily, who uses gears in her artwork. They learned about what drives many kinetic sculptures and the ratios present while they explored gears. The fifth graders created art using gears, meeting the criteria that two objects needed to interact as certain parts of the gears passed each other. 
 
A simple machines activity focused first on how wheels, axles and levers interact to create motion and accomplish tasks. Students were challenged to create a transportation system that used a wheel and axle to successfully move and deliver a load of 12 dominoes 1 meter from the starting point, and employ a lever to dump the load.

Students also used the engineering design process to create flag-waver automata using pulleys, gears, dowels, clips, rubber bands, blocks, and index cards. Teams devised a plan and created movable art that told a story. The students investigated that some forces may inhibit the motion of their automata and explored how to reduce these forces while challenged by friction. They engineered ways to reduce the friction such as adding wax to the dowel before inserting it into the plate. 
 
Throughout the week, students reflected on their engineering design process strengths and areas in which they could improve. Recognizing that team members had strengths that complimented their own led students to become better collaborators. Students realized that teams were strongest and most successful when each team member identified and contributed their individual talents. Students celebrated these strengths at the close of each activity by giving shout-outs to team members for outstanding leadership, communication, collaboration and focus.  

The week culminated in a STEAM Showcase, at which students displayed their work from the week in the fifth grade hallway. Everyone enjoyed celebrating a job well done during Drop Everything and STEAM Week. Cross-curricular, hands-on lessons like these stress all the great things about project-based learning and have long-lasting educational effects. From critical thinking and collaboration to creativity, problem-solving, and personalized learning, STEAM Week is an exciting and meaningful challenge for Chargers.

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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.