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STEMology Blasts off at FIS

STEMology Blasts off at FIS
Earlier this year, NASA announced plans for its Artemis program to establish a sustained human presence on the moon in 2028. Incidentally, that same year, FIS’ current Grade 3 students will be donning their caps and gowns and graduating. At that time, some aspiring space travelers may be on their way to university programs to earn bachelor’s degrees in engineering, biological science, physical science, computer science or mathematics, the required degrees to be considered for NASA’s astronaut positions. Luckily, through a unique FIS initiative, students can learn the foundations of these disciplines today to better prepare them for a potential flight to the moon in their future.
The FIS Board of Trustees has identified a Strategic Initiative to: “accelerate STEM opportunities for stu- dents through new classes, future-focused programs and the integration of computational thinking mod- els throughout the school.” FIS believes that by exposing students to STEM and giving them the opportunity to explore its concepts, they are more likely to develop a passion for STEM fields.
STEM, which is an acronym for science, technology, engineering, and math, integrates concepts that are typically taught as separate subjects and emphasizes finding real-world solutions to real-world problems. FIS educators recognized that STEM instruction needed to start at an early age and created the STEMology lunch series for curious Elementary School students. In STEMology’s inaugural year, the 2018-2019 school year, the program had over 125 stu- dents, each giving up their lunch recesses to attend.
FIS Elementary School Principal, Grace McCallum, ex- plains how the STEMology courses augment the curriculum being taught in the Units of Inquiry: “Young children are fascinated with their environment and want to experiment with concepts hands-on. Our Science Coordinator created STEMology to encourage their curiosity and give our students a dedicated time to explore and investigate in the maker space lab.”
Full STEM Ahead
Traditionally, classroom instruction of STEM subjects was a not-so-thrilling march through theory and concepts with little connection being made to real-life situations. I remember how hard it was for me to see myself using inverse trig functions after graduation. But today I find myself wishing I had paid more attention in math class when I have to calculate surface area in order to buy wallpaper.
In the FIS STEMology programs, under the direction of Catherine Walton, the Elementary School Science & Makerspace Coordinator, lessons are interactive scenarios meant to engage students. “Good STEM instruction blurs the lines between subject areas,” Ms. Walton clarified to me as I was observing one of her Grade 3 STEMology classes. “I create sessions that will spark students' curiosity in STEM topics by engaging in interests they already have and incorporating the classic engineering-design process: ask, imagine, plan, create, improve.”
During my visit to the STEMology class, 13 enthusiastic Grade 3 students were collecting fallen leaves and making leaf rubbings to see the veins, stems and blades of them. They were also using microscopes to examine their leaves, which triggered exclamations of, “WOW!”, “So cool!”, “Looks like lava!”, and “Ewww, it has hairs!” With four STEMology classes per month, one for each grade level, Elementary School students can look forward to chromatography (a method of separating and analyzing mixtures of chemicals), rocket launching, aeronautical design, virtual reality and, of course, exploding things.
Ms. Walton also emphasized why STEM is of particular importance in today’s tech-heavy environment, “Today’s students are exposed to an abundance of digital technology. We help them understand the concepts behind the technology and STEM instruction emphasizes the application of knowledge.”
STEM education is relying less on textbooks and more on teaching solutions that use real-world, interactive scenarios to engage the students. With STEMology, students can make the connection between how the math and science concepts they are learning in the classroom incorporate into their world. And that one small step may be one giant leap toward propelling them to the moon.
Juliette Gustavsson
FIS Parent
  • FISO Elementary
  • STEM