Gold Medal Performances
Elementary students in New Hampton designed functional model bobsleds Friday.
What could be more cool than that?
It’s all part of the “Winter STEM Olympics,” where first and third graders work together to learn, create and solve problems, collaborating on projects based on the popular Winter Olympic games.
STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, and all of those disciplines are used in the STEM Olympics — even though sometimes the kids are enjoying themselves too much to realize it.
“Sometimes they really don’t know they’re learning, they’re just having fun,” said New Hampton first grade teacher Angie Rowan. “But there’s a lot of learning going on. They’re working on a lot of problem-solving skills, and today they are applying the theories of friction.”
Students are given materials and instructions — Friday it was empty toilet paper rolls, straws, tape and other items — and then they are teamed up with the supplies, the instructions and each other. Friday they were learning how to make bobsleds, other days it has been ski-jumping, alpine skiing, curling — almost any winter sport can be applied to science.
“We chose some Olympic events that we thought would be good for our age group,” Rowan said. “They read about it, they learn about it, and now they apply what they’ve learned.”
The kids team up, with two third graders with one first grader, and get to work.
“We find that students can collaborate better and learn more this way,” said Rowan. “The first graders are already ‘reading buddies’ with the third graders. Our kids read to the third graders, the third graders read to them, so they already kind of know each other in one way. Now they’re learning to apply some other things beyond reading.”
Once they completed their bobsleds on Friday morning, the students took them for trial runs in the afternoon to see how well they worked.
“Then they’ll adjust and see if they can make it go faster,” said Rowan. “They’ll make the adjustments based on what they’ve learned and what they’ve already done.”
For more of this article, see Tuesday's Tribune.