STEM Stands for Fun at LCE

By LCE Principal, Emily Blaney

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You may have heard of the buzzword STEM, which stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics.There are many STEM-related careers that are currently in high demand, like software designers and electrical engineers. The career possibilities that will be available by the time our elementary students reach adulthood are endless! The best thing about STEM is that these subjects are engaging and fun, and we’ve been having a lot of STEM=fun at LCE.

Even our youngest students focus on the S in STEM. Transitional Kindergarten and Kindergarten teachers Pam Daniger, Wendy Damico, and Mandy Redfern have  incorporated activities into their centers and built them into students’ playtime. Students made foil boats to test sinking and floating, did a push-pull activity with toy vehicles and tracks, and explored topics like evaporation and clouds. They recently acted as young engineers on the 100th day of school when they were given the task of designing and building the highest tower using 100 plastic cups.

Red cups stacked on table.

Kindergarten students soon realized that if they stood on a stepstool, they could make their cup towers even taller!

Dedicated LCE parents make the after school enrichment class called Science Olympiad a possibility for our students. The class meets once a week, and students prepare to compete in the Los Angeles County Science Olympiad competition on March 4, 2017.

Our computer lab specialist, Mrs. Vicki Brown, has integrated wonderful STEM activities into her curriculum this year, too. These activities focus more on the T in STEM. For example, our TK and Kindergarten students have been coding with the Kodable app. 1st and 2nd graders have been building code to direct Dash robots to move in different patterns and make sounds. 3rd graders will figure out how to code Dot robots to communicate with Dash robots. Fourth graders will be introduced to computer science this year with Google’s CS First curriculum. Our 5th graders have started designing and printing using our 3D printers, and the 6th graders have a chance to build LEGO EV3 robots!

Students use iPads to code Dash robots. We were able to purchase the robots through a generous parent donation.

Each of our LCE classes has paired up with a different-aged buddy class for the year. Buddy classes meet regularly throughout the year, and many of the pairings have used STEM activities as a vehicle to help students work together, problem solve, and design together. For example, Karen Gilmour’s second grade class and Laurie Hopkins’s fourth grade class are buddy classes. They get together once a month for an activity that focuses on the E in STEM. Last month, the students explored with K’NEX kits and designed simple machines. They have also completed challenges such as designing and building (candy) pumpkin catapults and structures with gumdrops and toothpicks. On Valentine’s Day, they used the engineering design process to build cupid’s bow and arrow out of popsicle sticks, rubber bands, string, and Q-tips. 

Students tested out their bows and arrows with a heart-shaped target.

Two after-school STEM classes are offered to students. Designed by parent volunteers and taught by Mrs. Stephanie Boayes, Ms. Cristina Diaz, and Mrs. Jenny Franz, students are exposed to experiences such as designing electronic modules using littleBits. They also learn about circuits using CircuitScribe and Makey Makey. The youngest students will design flashlights and 3D print the buttons for them!

Finally, STEM would not be STEM without the M. Math is the one subject that every LCE teacher teaches every day, and our new standards help students understand how to communicate about math and persevere in problem solving. LCE also has an after school program called Math Olympiad for 2nd - 6th graders run by parents and teachers like Barb Drange. Students meet once a week to solve math challenges and prepare for the local, district Math competition called Mathzilla as well as the Los Angeles county Math Field Day competition in April. 

Teachers and students are both having a great time exploring STEM and will continue to add more learning opportunities in the days ahead. Watch out, world. Future scientists, engineers, designers, and mathematicians are in training!