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STEMology Blasts off at FIS
Students explore STEM principles through lunchtime courses
 Earlier this year, NASA announced plans for its Artemis program to establish a sustained human presence on the moon in 2028. Incidentally, that
same year, FIS’ current Grade 3 students will be donning their caps and gowns and graduating. At that time, some aspiring space travelers may be on their way to university programs to earn bachelor’s degrees in engineering, biological science, physical science, computer science or mathematics, the required degrees to be considered for NASA’s astronaut positions. Luckily, through a unique FIS initiative, students can learn the foundations of these disciplines today to better prepare them for a potential flight to the moon in their future.
In the FIS STEMology program, lessons are interactive scenarios meant to engage students.
The FIS Board of Trustees has identified a Strategic Initiativeto:“accelerateSTEMopportunitiesforstu- dents through new classes, future-focused programs and the integration of computational thinking mod- els throughout the school.” FIS believes that by expos- ing students to STEM and giving them the opportu- nity to explore its concepts, they are more likely to develop a passion for STEM fields.
STEM, which is an acronym for science, technology, engineering, and math, integrates concepts that are typically taught as separate subjects and em- phasizes finding real-world solutions to real-world problems. FIS educators recognized that STEM in- struction needed to start at an early age and created the STEMology lunch series for curious Elementary School students. In STEMology’s inaugural year, the 2018/2019 school year, the program had over 125 stu- dents, each giving up their lunch recesses to attend.
FIS Elementary School Principal, Grace McCallum, ex- plains how the STEMology courses augment the cur- riculum being taught in the Units of Inquiry:“Young children are fascinated with their environment and want to experiment with concepts hands-on. Our Science Coordinator created STEMology to encour- age their curiosity and give our students a dedicated time to explore and investigate in the maker space lab.”
Full STEM Ahead
Traditionally, classroom instruction of STEM sub- jects was a not-so-thrilling march through theory
and concepts with little connection being made to real-life situations. I remember how hard it was for me to see myself using inverse trig functions after graduation. But today I find myself wishing I had paid more attention in math class when I have to calcu- late surface area in order to buy wallpaper.
In the FIS STEMology programs, under the direction of Catherine Walton, the Elementary School Science & Makerspace Coordinator, lessons are interactive scenarios meant to engage students. “Good STEM instruction blurs the lines between subject areas,” Ms. Walton clarified to me as I was observing one of her Grade 3 STEMology classes. “I create sessions that will spark students' curiosity in STEM topics by engaging in interests they already have and incor- porating the classic engineering-design process: ask, imagine, plan, create, improve.”
During my visit to the STEMology class, 13 enthusi- astic Grade 3 students were collecting fallen leaves and making leaf rubbings to see the veins, stems and blades of them. They were also using micro- scopes to examine their leaves, which triggered ex- clamationsof,“WOW!”,“Socool!”,“Lookslikelava!”, and “Ewww, it has hairs!”
With four STEMology classes per month, one for each grade level, Elementary School students can look forward to chromatography (a method of sep- arating and analyzing mixtures of chemicals), rocket launching, aeronautical design, virtual reality and, of course, exploding things.
Ms. Walton also emphasized why STEM is of partic-
ular importance in today’s tech-heavy environment, “Today’s students are exposed to an abundance of dig- ital technology. We help them understand the con- cepts behind the technology and STEM instruction
emphasizes the application of knowledge.”
STEM education is relying less on textbooks and more on teaching solutions that use real-world, interactive scenarios to engage the students. With STEMology, students can make the connection between how the math and science concepts they are learning in the classroom incorporate into their world. And that one small step may be one giant leap toward pro- pelling them to the moon.
Juliette Gustavsson FIS Parent
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