My STEM Units

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Innovation Nation STEM Festival

Chief Alchesay Activity Center usually erupts with the sound of clapping from cheering fans.  This last Wednesday, it erupted with catapults launching, rockets zooming, and Legos snapping.  Over 1,000 people attended the Innovation Nation STEM Festival on the Fort Apache Reservation. 

This year, Whiteriver Unified School District took an all-out approach to integrate new Common Core State Standards and new online digital assessment (PARCC).  Classrooms, from Kindergarten to high school, were engaged in project-based learning projects which were fully integrated into their existing, district-adopted curriculum.  Second graders used water tables to simulate weathering and erosion.  Third graders planted a butterfly garden for their life cycle unit.  Fifth graders built hot air balloons.  Seventh graders programmed robots.  High schoolers built a life-sized trebuchet.  What better way to highlight these projects (and all the learning that went into them) than to host a huge STEM festival and invite the entire community?!

This is not your typical Science Fair.  Instead, we had over 40 booths spread around the Activity Center.  Students signed up for shifts to stand near their booth.  Students explained their project to those who visited.  Each booth was also interactive, with rockets zooming across the activity center or paper airplanes flying overhead.  Parents held iPads up to the ceiling and tracked constellations.  Children glued pasta on paper plates to simulate life cycles.  Visitors poured water into pipelines which mimic the coming Rural Water Project and Pipeline.  Toddlers played with wooden blocks and Legos in the Toddler Maker Space.  Grandparents programmed robots to walk across a table.  Children controlled a robotic arm to pick up a stack of dice and set them down in a new location.  Visitors were able to launch water balloons with the trebuchet.

But not all the booths were manned by students.  We also had over 20 booths from local businesses and STEM organizations.  Some raffled off robots and telescopes.  ASU had an engineering challenge.  Gaming had a virtual reality gaming booth.  Arizona Science Museum had logic puzzles.  Even the local library and hospital came with information for attendees.  The local counseling provider cooked hot dogs for all visitors (over 1,000).  With the generous donation of several organizations, over $1,000 worth of prizes were handed out.

What did children have to do to earn prizes?  Engineering competitions!  We had a classic egg drop competition from the top balcony to the basketball floor.  Would you believe that all designs worked and we had 21 winners from that one competition?!  We also had a wind-powered race car competition.  Who knew life savers and straws made such wonderful wheels and axles?

It will be hard to top this next year, but I know 2,000 students who are up to the challenge.........

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