Many people picture robots, computer science, and maybe mixing colorful chemicals when they think of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics). While those lessons are always fun to learn, a lot of STEM curriculum can be used to solve real world problems, and be applied to day-to-day life.
Take Nicollette LeTellier's classes at Swift Water Elementary School; this week she challenged her third grade students to build paper houses that would stay still when a fan blew on them to simulate a tornado.
“I think we need more problem solvers in the world that can look outside the box and come up with innovative solutions,” LeTellier said. “The next generations will have to solve many problems with the changing earth conditions and expanding population, so they’ll be designing new technologies.”
LeTellier is Swift Water’s STEM Specialist, and teaches all grades new ways to apply STEM to their lives. She has been teaching for 18 years, and started at the Peninsula School District in 2016. Her favorite part of the job is watching students experiment solutions to presented problems.
“I love hands-on learning activities that try to solve real world problems. I love watching them redesign and keep working, especially when it’s a challenging task.”
On Monday, Jan. 30, Swift Water third grade students constructed paper house models and were given two pieces of scotch tape, two paper clips, scrap paper, and a couple of toothpicks to try and construct a house that would not blow away during a major windstorm, simulated by a box fan.
These students may only see a fun craft and challenge at first, but they were learning the basics of architecture and engineering that could later be used to build sturdy structures that can withstand extreme weather conditions. While many student’s houses blew away to the Land of Oz, others stood strong. Those who blew away were picked up by their creators to be remodeled.
LeTellier, just like other STEM educators at PSD, is constantly looking for new projects and lessons for her students to learn about how to solve current situations. Soon LeTellier’s students will learn how to use robots to help clean up the world’s oceans of garbage.
“Students will have to design, program, and operate their own apparatus to attach to the robot to pick up trash,” she said.
The reward for LeTellier’s work is seeing a student’s face light up when their experiment works. This is how PSD teacher’s inspire future innovators who will champion new ideas for their future.
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