Mendota Heights, MN
What is the focus of your STEM Blueprint work this year?
With the opening of our new Innovation Center last fall, we wanted to focus on the “E” in STEM. Upon returning from our summer at Notre Dame, we immediately looked at areas in the middle school curriculum where we might integrate engineering design. Starting with a measurement project in sixth-grade science, a percentage project in our seventh-grade math class, and a projectile motion project with our ninth-grade physical science class, we have successfully provided more than 80 students a directed, hands-on engineering project that meshed seamlessly into their first semester class work. Our long-term goal is to provide every Saint Thomas Academy Middle School student more than 25 hours of design and fabrication experience before they graduate to our upper school.
What exciting STEM experiences have happened at your school so far this year?
Last year we received a grant to start a Drone Racing Team in our middle school. This created tremendous STEM interest with our youngest students as they walk past the Innovation Center after school to see mini-drones being flown through obstacles via “first person view” goggles. This exposure to the technology, programming, maintenance, problem-solving, and repair of the drones (they crash a lot...) has provided our team of young Orville Wrights an authentic, hands-on, technology and engineering activity that seems more like fun than learning.
The measurement/modeling project with our sixth graders was a great way to introduce our newest students to our STEM program. The project focused on the design and fabrication of a five-piece cube puzzle that helped students learned about measurement, isometric drawing, 3D computer modeling, and 3D printing as they changed their original models into finished plastic puzzles. The project followed the Notre Dame Engineering Design Process and encouraged productive talk while students gained skills that will help them in all of their STEM classes.
What STEM-related activities are you planning for the upcoming semester?
We are excited for our Girl Scout Engineering Day and our STEM Day for third-fifth grade boys. In addition to our outreach with students, Caroline Little and Mark Westlake are presenting on STEM Co-curricular Activities at the Minnesota Association of Independent Schools Conference in February.