At a recent professional development day, St. Martha faculty got to share with one another how they are incorporating technology and other innovative techniques into the classroom! Teachers got to explore all of the technologies available at St. Martha and learn how they could apply them in different different content areas including AR, VR, Makey Makey, Osmo, Squishy Circuits, Tinkercad, 3D printing and more!
Come along as we give you the same tour this month on the blog!!
“The students we are teaching now, many of their jobs don’t even exist today,” says Dana Bale, middle school science teacher and founder of St. Martha’s Makerspace STEM Lab and Robotics Club.
“Today’s student’s need to hone skills like problem solving, communicating and collaborating. Our goal is to cultivate these 21stcentury skills, as well as high school and college readiness with these innovative programs, tools and resources.
Embracing technology (and tinkering!) in our Makerspace STEM Lab
Our Makerspace is a STEM Lab is space dedicated to allowing students to tinker, create and build using both low- and high-tech tools.
“You can spend a million dollars or have a lot of recycling,” says Bale. “It’s really just about making your brain work differently.”
Tools in the lab include many different kinds of robots – VEX, Mindstorm, Sphereos, Ozobot, Dash and Dot – a 3-D printer, a Circuit as well as a Lego wall, K’next and arts and crafts materials like pipe cleaners and pom poms.
Since opening its doors two years ago, the Makerspace STEM Lab has indeed gotten students – and their teachers! – thinking differently.
“The possibilities are endless,” says Bale. “Our music classes have been in here exploring the basis for sound, we’ve had religion classes use the space – we’ve explored a lot of nature, sustainability, ethics, energy, peace.”
Starting small, starting early
Even our youngest students get some early exposure to programming and robotics. Our “Bee Bots” are small programmable robots that look like bees. Students program the robots to arrive at certain destinations on a map. They allow children as young as 4 years-old to practice a variety of skills like mapping, coding, understanding directional movement and mathematical concepts of distance and location and so much more.
Virtual Field Trip! Creating Global Explorers
New this year – expanding students horizons beyond the walls of our building with Virtual Reality Goggles! Our 4th and 5th graders have used the VR Goggles to go on several virtual field trips aligned to what they are studying. Earlier this year, 4th grade used the technology to bring food chains to life. Now the class is exploring landforms of the U.S. and creating travel advertisements based on what they’ve learned. 4th grade groups have explored food chains using and landforms of the U.S. the landforms
Meanwhile, 5th grade has used VR to explore Christmas traditions in other countries and create/decorate a tree that shows those traditions. They also explored biomes of Earth before creating iMovies of their own biomes using green screen. Up next for 5th grade? Touring Earth & Space.
Let’s Go Outside! Eco-Learning in our Outdoor Classroom
We’ve recently secured several grants to enhance our STEM offerings that encourage environmental conservation. Student proposals helped determine what the grant money will go toward and include: a new rain barrel, compost bin, raised garden beds and a vermiculture bin at St. Martha. All of this is enhanced by recently completing phase 1 of our Outdoor Classroom – a dedicated space for learning about our environment and brining to life concepts being learned inside the building. Outdoor learning is associated with better grades, better health, decreased stress levels and better overall behavior. For more details, check out our blog!
Our Robotics Club is now in its fourth year. We’ve had such resounding interest, we formed an intramural team and have had to grow our collection of robots each year.
Extra! Extra!: After school clubs & enrichment programs
In addition to the exposure to STEM our students get in the classroom, we also offer several enrichment opportunities after school and for those students who show strong interest or ability in this area.
The last several years, we’ve registered teams in multiple categories at the VEX Robotics competition including: STEM Research, autonomous programming, design notebook and team alliance. Recently the team has placed 13thin the district, 8thin the region and 12thin the state. And won the design award.
New this year, we’ve added a STEAM Club, focused on offering students a broader experience of STEAM. Students will work throughout the year on several different STEAM challenges. “We are developing students’ skills in collaboration and creative thinking,” says Jennifer Mueller, middle school science teacher and leader of the the STEAM Club. Some of the areas of focus are (physics) egg drop and catapult, (computer science) coding and app development, (engineering and biology) building and learning about bird/bee houses, (art/engineering) studying special effects and creating a haunted hallway.
Finally, our school also participates in SHINE: Students Have Insights and New Experiences. This program provides high-achieving students a chance to visit other schools and be immersed for three days in a certain subject area. This year, Mrs. Bale offered 5th grade SHINE students a program on the engineering design process where they created rockets, rubber band cars, bouncy balls, NASA Rovers, solar cars, computer programs, and completed team STEM Challenges.
Building Rockin’ Readers
St. Martha offers a variety of resources to help teachers create a more personalized, research-based approach for students’ diverse needs. Our new Learning Lab provides a space and tools for students to work in small group or 1×1 settings to enhance reading skills. In its first year, our Lexia program has already proved a valuable tool to help reinforce key reading concepts for students in grades K-5. Finally, St. Martha is unique in its offering of the Barton’s program – a specific resource for students diagnosed with dyslexia, that typically requires tutoring outside school hours and at a significant cost outside tuition. Checkout our blog post for more!