STEAM Fair Preview 2019: Grade 5

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Jackson School is in high energy mode with the Annual STEAM Fair coming up on March 28, 2019.

Annual K-6 STEAM Fair Preview

Jackson School is in high energy mode with the Annual STEAM Fair only days away. Students in Kindergarten through Grade 6 are finalizing their presentation boards and reports. Projects that focus on Designing Shelters, Building Bridges, Volcanoes, Boats that Float, Removal of Invasive Species, Electrical Engineering, Oil Spills, and Body Systems in Space are innovative, exciting, and dynamic in experimentation, interpretation, design, and strategic thinking.

Peek into Ms. Alison Guilmette’s and Ms. Alison Brooks’ Grade 5 classrooms to see multifaceted activities evolving with small teams at different points of experimentation and presentation at work on the effect of oil spills on the ecosystem. 

Jackson fifth graders are pooling the tools of technology, science, and design with the properties of designated materials to learn which material or combination of materials will best clean up an oil spill in fresh water. Points for the cost effectiveness of each team’s clean-up materials are combined with its “shore score” to determine the experiment’s impact on the ecosystem.

A few years back, Ms. Guilmette teamed with the Museum of Science, Boston and the National Center for Technological Literacy to bring the program “Engineering is Elementary” into the classroom. “The program is challenging and immensely successful in opening our students’ minds and awareness of how humans can negatively impact the ecosystem,” she says.

Using large foil pans partially filled with water, and with small rocks at one end to simulate a riverbed, student teams add one teaspoon of cooking oil mixed with a bit of cocoa powder to the water. A windowsill buffet of paper plates holds an assortment of materials from which students choose to eradicate their oil. Each clean-up material has a cost value. Teams choose a selection of materials and calculate the value of materials used. Yarn and elastics act as booms.

Sponge, nylon, and felt squares; cotton balls, spoons, paper filters, pipettes are other materials of choice.

Once a team believes its oil spill is removed, an assessment paper is placed on the water, then held over a blower to dry. Held to the sunlight, the paper reveals remaining oil spots. Each spot carries an effectiveness value based on size. After further clean-up, if they deem it necessary, they test for oil with a piece of brown paper laid on the water. This “shore score” value is added to the dollar value of materials used to create a final Ecosystem Impact score. The impact score tells the students how effective their clean-up experiment was, and which ecosystems remain impacted: birds, fish, insects, flora, fauna, soil.

The awareness of how humans impact nature started months ago with a project on an imaginary village “Greentown” that houses two large neighborhoods, a school, a farm, marshland, a pond, a community garden, and factories for bicycles, cars, and medicines. The pH impact of waste leeched into the natural resources was calculated. Additionally, Newton engineer, Maria Rose, visited the classroom with a large hands-on city model to engage the fifth graders in an experiment that demonstrates how pollutants flow into storm drains.

The students and their teachers across disciplines worked on the impact of oil spills on the environment. In art, they created pieces using oil paints and in English they crafted poems about disasters that endanger the ecosystem.

On March 28, K-6 Grades at Jackson School proudly will showcase their class projects, their research and results presented in papers and poster displays, for the Annual Jackson School STEAM Fair.