Jackson STEAM Fair Ignites Imagination
The Jackson School STEAM Fair is distinctive. The Fair engages the imagination, creative thinking, research and design skills of all students in the Newton school, Kindergarten through Grade 6. The depth and complexity of class presentations grow incrementally as students age in wisdom and technological capabilities. Yet the passion each class brings to its project is matched across the ages.
Grade 1 students, in small groups, were tasked to build a bridge. The parameters are clear: it is a suspension bridge built over water so that boats can pass under. Despite their limited visual experience of travel over and under bridges, first grade imagination took off. They created structures reminiscent of the Zakim Bridge with its towering fan-like pattern of cable stays (made of string and colored yarn in Grade 1), a bridge with a street sign (mounted on a popsicle stick), and a tunnel bridge where the street above holds tunnels (a line of plastic cups).
Students used a painted wooden base on which they built their bridge. The list of materials for this engineering project is specific: wooden blocks, cardboard tubing, pressed cardboard, straws, chopsticks, colorful yarn, tongue depressors, coffee filters, and plastic cups. First graders rose to meet the challenges their designs presented. One group changed its tilting straw hoisting a street sign to a sturdier popsicle stick. Another group suffered a bridge collapse and constructed an underbelly structure made of chopsticks to support their colorful road of painted tongue depressors. A team added a car park alongside the ramp, “To keep a car safe when it runs out of gas,” and another group created designated lanes for traffic and cyclists.
From afar, you just might spot Mrs. Kristina Mann’s and Ms. Madeline Welty’s six- and seven-year old students keenly eyeing the ongoing construction of the Charlestown Bridge.
It is with passion and enthusiasm that Mrs. Nicola Melisi’s and Ms. Joanna McHugh’s Grade 3 students are hunting down invasive species and creating Public Service Announcements to alert consumers of the need to remove them. Beginning their study of invasive species in language arts, the students focused on a few specific international species: cane toads, zebra mussels, kudzu, feral pigs, and brown tree snakes. The students then were charged to construct a trap that would attract and hold a cane toad for ultimate elimination.
The traps are cleverly designed as a cane toad can spray its poison up to four feet away. Since the toad lives in wooded areas, the traps are discreetly camouflaged with moss, leaves, and twigs, and contain bait to lure the toad in. The hidden trapper then pulls a string to secure the trap.
The students talk animatedly about the native habitat of each invasive species, how these species were unwittingly transported to a new habitat, and the ecosystem of the new environment left vulnerable to the destruction inflicted upon it by these species. The students’ final step is to create a large and bold Public Service Announcement for presentation. So, if you think that fragrant, purple flower in your garden growing up a tree or ledge is beautiful, you might want to call in the third grade Jackson “Removal of Invasive Species” team to rid your garden of Kudzu.