Eyes open wide during STEM day
Sun Thisweek. Andy Rogers. November 21, 2018.

Students at Glacier Hills Elementary in Eagan proved last weekend that science, technology, engineering and math can be fun during the magnet school’s annual STEM day.

“Students heard that STEM careers are not just men in lab coats, that STEM careers are dynamic, fun, challenging and engaging,” said Jill Jensen, IDEAS coach at Glacier Hills. “STEM careers are ways that our students can see themselves helping make the world a better place and allow for a variety of topics to be applied.”

Part of the day, students heard from female engineers and scientists about their education and careers.

“We wanted our female students to have an opportunity to see themselves represented in STEM fields,” Jensen said. “Women continue be under represented in STEM careers and having mentors and female examples can have a positive effect on a student’s inspiration and awareness.”

Students then broke into several classes designed to give them an experience related to the engineering design process through a variety of topics including coding, engineering and designing challenges.

One challenge was to build a bridge that would hold 21 elephants. Others focused on wind turbines, chemical engineering and bumper cars.

In the chemical engineering class, students were introduced to the chemical composition of polymers and then tried to mix it into slime.

Students spent the time discussing what ingredient in the recipe made the best slime.

The school has been home to STEM day since 2013 as the teachers continuously look for avenues to show students connections between arts and science.

Jensen said as an example, students in second grade study Georgia O’Keefe while learning about plant and flower structures.

“Other times we integrate through the medium of art – for example first-grade students collected and studied soil from different parts of our school yard, then used the soil we collected in a piece of art,” Jensen said. “Sometimes technology is the bridge between the two topics – in fourth grade students used computational thinking to create a radial design of two different regular polygons that was then printed on the 3D printer. Their printed design will then be used to create a ceramic tile.”

In many ways, Glacier Hills has a goal of preparing young people for emerging technologies.

Jensen said there’s been a shift in the job market toward STEM-related careers and there’s a shortage of trained workers.

“While our work at Glacier Hills attempts to reflect current trends toward getting students aware of STEM careers and topics, we also see that STEM activities and learning units are an opportunity to also build skills of persistence, communication, collaboration, critical thinking and creativity – skills that would help students be successful in a variety of career paths,” Jensen said.

The event was open to all students at Glacier Hills attending with an adult, as adults were expected to stay and participate.

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