Manheim Central School District has embarked on many goals this school year. One focus at the elementary level has been incorporating STEM into our curriculum and daily routine. STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. Our elementary STEM programs fosters a love of these four disciplines by integrating them into our content areas. STEM focuses on hands-on and relevant learning experiences for our students. It engages students and helps establish connections between the school, work place, community, and the global economy. Each lesson ties directly into the curriculum and focuses on the 4C’s: collaboration, creativity, critical thinking, and communication. Student model the Engineering by Design Process during challenges by asking themselves what the problem, imagining possible solutions, planning materials, creating a prototype, and thinking of ways to improve through redesigning.
So what does a day in STEM look like? A picture is worth a thousand words…let’s look at some pictures of STEM in action at each grade level!
Pre-K students practiced basic coding with Spheros, robotic balls that can be controlled by an app on their iPads. Students reviewed basic shapes and letters by using draw code. They identified the letter and/or shape and then drew it on their iPad. Sphero then rolled in the shape or letter that the student drew!
Kindergarten students have been learning about habitats as part of their science curriculum. One part of a habitat is a shelter. Students had to construct a sun shelter to protect an animal from UV rays. We discussed what materials would work best based on the importance of them being ‘reflective’ and not ‘transparent’. Students then tested out their shelter with color changing beads! If the beads stayed clear, the shelter was a success! If they changed color, a redesign was necessary.
First grade read the book Scaredy Squirrel as part of the English Language Arts curriculum in the fall. Students constructed catapults to help launch acorns to Scaredy Squirrel so that he did not have to leave the tree! This was also a great introduction to force and motion, a science unit in first grade. Students got to test out their catapults by launching acorns across the room!
Second grade has been focusing on nonfiction text. One of the books that they read during whole group English Language Arts looked at the solar system, specifically the moon. Students had to develop landing gear that would allow an astronaut to land safely on the moon. We discussed a shock absorbing system and what materials would work best to provide balance and prevent the spacecraft from bouncing. Students tested their prototype by dropping it from approximately one foot. If their astronaut (aka a plastic egg) stayed in the spacecraft, it was a success!
Third grade does an extensive science unit on water and the water cycle. Students have been learning about how water gets into our homes. A study of water towers and pipelines lead to students constructing their own water towers that could hold two cups of water and was complete with a working pipeline that could deliver water into a home or business. Students also had to devise a way to turn the pipeline on or off.
Fourth grade students have been working on solar energy and identifying items that we can redesign using solar power. Special focus has been placed on studying materials that absorb heat and ones that act as good insulators. Students created a solar powered oven that had to be able to cook a s’more. The s’more had to be cooked at two different levels, allowing students to test the temperature rise and see which height was more effective.
Grade 5 COMPUTERS/STEM
During 5th grade computer, students learn about desktop management, Office 365, as well as, Word and Excel. Initially, students learn how to create and organize their folders and documents in Microsoft’s OneDrive. This cloud environment permits students access to their folders and files anywhere they have internet access. After spending time on desktop management and OneDrive, Excel is the next area of focus. In this unit, students will have the opportunity to discover the benefits of and reasons for using Excel. After this brief introduction, students will spend time identifying various parts of an Excel document. As students gain more familiarity with Excel, they apply learned skills to create a grade keeper. This allows students the opportunity to show how Excel can be used to organize and calculate data. Finally, in our last Excel activity, students are guided through the process of creating a line graph of the average temperatures in Lancaster, PA. Through this creation, students can demonstrate how Excel can be used to display information in the form of a graph. As the marking period closes, students will get acquainted with Word. During this unit, students will review basic text formatting and discover how to setup tab stops, indent markers, as well as line and paragraph spacing. Furthermore, students will learn how to add headers and footers, columns, pictures and will have the opportunity to work with these elements within Word.
Project Lead the Way (PLTW)
Project Lead the Way, is a curriculum that is being taught nationwide, in over 6,000 schools to millions of students, intentionally introduces students to engineering. The district offers PLTW classes up thru 12th grade with intent of preparing students for careers in the many areas of engineering. In the middle school students receive PLTW curriculum in all four grades.
In 5th grade STEM/Technology and Engineering Education students experience Project Lead the Way’s LAUNCH engineering-based curriculum infused with Technology Education. 5th grade’s PLTW curriculum is called Robotics and Automation. In their 11 days students are actively involved with the following activities: Students learn about technology and inventions; they also learn about and get to use robots – focusing on why humans are using robots and inputs and outputs and eventually compete in our robot maze challenge; finally students build a sailboat out of Styrofoam, wood and vinyl – while doing science and math – that they race in our water-filled race track.
6th grade COMPUTERS/STEM
During 6th grade computer, students learn how to code through various programming sites, such as Code.org, App Inventor and Scratch. While working through a myriad of activities in combination with these sites, students have been strengthening their computational thinking skills. Code.org is an organization found by Hadi Partovi, to promote computer science in all schools around the world. Coding teaches students to be computational thinkers at the same time preparing students for the jobs of the future. Scratch and App Inventor are other programs that have been created by MIT to teach students to code using blocks of code similar to those found in code.org. In addition, some students have used Scratch to program our two Finch robots to do various tasks. Throughout this course, students will learn about algorithms, programming, pixels, compiler, loops, debugging, conditionals, binary code, events and computational thinking.
6th grade STEM/Technology Education & Engineering is a continuation of 5th grade PLTW curriculum, which is the Robotics and Automation Challenge. Students explore the application of autonomous robots in a variety of situations and learn more about a particular type of robot. The activities and project in this module develop skills and knowledge associated with the utilization of computer software to program robots.
7th grade Technology and Engineering Education/PLTW
7th grade Technology Education & Engineering is the Design & Modeling curriculum from PLTW. It allows students to apply the design process to solve problems and understand the influence of creativity and innovation in their lives. Accurate measurement is also reviewed and students apply measurement when sketching, making a skimmer design, and using a computer modeling systems called Inventor. They also practice conversion between units. The use of Orthographic sketching helps them to communicate design ideas, and allows them to understand the basics of technical drawings. A Career Exploration project pushes students to research different trades and engineering career options for future consideration.
8th grade Technology and Engineering Education/PLTW
The 8th grade PLTW curriculum is called Automation and Robotics. In this 22 day long class students spend time; building and examining 11 different types of gears; doing a problem solving activity where they build a pull-toy mechanism out of 4 or more of the 11 gears; building a robot; learning a programming language called ROBOTC; programming their robot; and competing in a robot maze challenge. Teamwork, problem solving, self-motivation and communication are emphasized throughout their time in the lab.
Grades 9 - 12 STEM
STEM in the Manheim Central School District is exploding with a passion. We offer several courses at the High School that would fit the criteria for a STEM opportunity for our students. Project Lead the Way, PLTW, is a nationally known program that helps foster the importance of learning STEM in a rigorous environment that exposes students to authentic experiences related to Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. However, please understand that all other content areas, although not in the acronym STEM, are present throughout the student experiences.
PLTW offerings are five courses strong at the high school. They include Introduction to Engineering Design, IED, Principles of Engineering, POE, Aerospace Engineering, AE, Civil Engineering and Architecture, CEA, and Computer Science Principles, CS. Three teachers deliver the PLTW curriculum at the high school, Mr. Bechtel IED, POE, and AE, Mr. Eckman IED and CEA, and Mrs. DiSanza CS. The program is answering the needs of about one hundred and forty students on a yearly basis.
The past few years we have brought about change to the Technology and Engineering Department at Manheim Central due to the generosity of MCFEE through the grant process and additional budget expenditures. We were able to acquire additional STEM equipment, a CNC Turning Machine, a CNC Milling Machine, and a Laser Cutter. Students in the Manufacturing classes are learning how this equipment is changing the face and perception of manufacturing. The district is investing in the future of our students by providing numerous opportunities for them to experience authentic STEM practices.
The high school under the advisement of Mr. Zach Pratt has started a MCHS Chapter of the Technology Student Association, TSA. This student run organization will work on challenges throughout the year and compete in the spring against other high school students in our region. The competitions vary from projects to design challenges as well parliamentary processes. We are excited about the addition of this student club for our students to be able to gain authentic practice.
The Middle School offers PLTW course to all levels of students. Fifth grade started PLTW Robotics and Automation last fall offering part 1. Students in sixth grade this year will get part 2 of the PLTW R & A. This gives students an opportunity to learn about coding in a friendly drop and drag environment. Student can simulate robotics and well as gain knowledge by building prototypes of robotics components. Programming an app controls their models and simulations.
In the seventh grade, students are exposed to PLTW Design and Modeling, a course that introduces the design process, sketching and CAD drawings. From conceptualization to design, students begin to get a feel for how a product originates. They see the dream of a product become a final idea through the design process steps. Eighth grade gives the students a taste of gearing and assembly production line processes in a PLTW Automation and Robotics course. Students are able to construct scale models to explore gear ratios and power trains to begin learning about mechanisms. Students have the ability to learn coding a program to automate a mechanism.