Roxbury’s Kids Learn to Think like Scientists in K-6 STEAM Expo

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More than 150 students in Roxbury Township in grades K-6 participated last Saturday in Roxbury’s annual K-6 STEAM Expo at Eisenhower Middle School.

Each of the K-6 elementary schools was represented at the expo along with experiments that encompassed every branch of STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and math) including many innovations in technology and sustainability.

Roxbury Steam Class

The science team, administration, staff, and families were able to speak to our up and coming scientists from each school. Students were excited to share their results with the Roxbury community.

Roxbury Steam TeamSTEAM is an integrated approach to learning that encourages students to think more broadly about real-world problems. “Events such as our STEAM Expo makes learning fun and engaging,” shared Denise Glenn, Science Supervisor for grades 6-12.

Adding, “It provides our scholars the opportunity to use content knowledge and skills in ways that are practical and applicable to the real world, just like they would if they were working on science or engineering projects in the field.”

The STEAM Expo provides students with the exposure to hands-on learning that challenges them to think critically and creatively, and lets them apply important content knowledge in meaningful ways. The district’s curriculum supports and prepares the students for a more scientifically and technologically complex world. In a rapidly changing, increasingly technological world.

This year’s STEAM Expo also afforded the students the ability to exceed curriculum expectations as many projects were cross-curricular. “I saw science investigations that included music, food, and sports,” said Kelly Curtiss, Roxbury’s PreK-5 Applied Sciences Supervisor.

Glenn echoed Curtiss’ sentiments on cross-curricular projects stating, “One of our curriculum goals is to focus on higher-order thinking skills in all content areas. Our STEAM Expo is an ideal vehicle for exploring content knowledge, themes, learning life skills so that our students can succeed in today’s world. We don’t expect every child to grow up to become a scientist, engineer, or designer, but we need everyone to grow up knowing how to think like one.”

“Building a strong foundation in science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics places our students on the road to success in school and beyond. We even address speaking and listening standards when students present their projects to all of the visitors. It really is a cross-curricular event.”

Roxbury Steam Team 2Sustainability was seen throughout the Expo this year as Roxbury Schools embarks on this ongoing initiative in the district. Many projects addressed environmental and technological topics.

Glenn explained that “One particular project focused on alternative energy, specifically wind turbines.” Wind turbines are devices that convert the wind’s kinetic energy into electrical energy.

“One Lincoln/Roosevelt student had an entire town working off of the turbine while another student had an actual solar car and talked about converting solar energy from the sun into electricity. These are areas which we are developing and utilizing this technology now. By the time these students are in high school and college, they could be driving or riding solar powered buses or cars to school.”

Sustainability means to act in a manner that exhibits awareness of how all things are connected and make well-considered choices for the greater good of all. Schools are great examples of interconnected systems to which principles of sustainability can be applied with wide-ranging benefits. Such systems include the building, its component materials, systems and operation; surrounding natural resources and ecosystems; students, staff, and the community; transportation methods, district budgets, and even global conditions. “Our district-wide commitment to sustainability will address these topics now and well into the future.”

Other projects that focused on green topics included a Lemon Battery project that used lemons to create energy, Cara Goldstein built a wooden 3-D model of a water wheel and demonstrated how the force of water turned the wheel and gears to generate power. She explained how the history of the water wheel has been around for centuries and being green started long before now.  

Roxbury Steam Team 3A student at LRS demonstrated how steam can be used to propel boats through the water while another student showed how the flow of water along a copper pipe creates energy to make pictures dance.

Sustainability doesn’t just cover green energies but also touches on the biology and buildings. One young girl used Crisco to demonstrate how fat can be used as an insulator like with Polar Bears. Other students investigated mother nature’s wrath with how to create and stop tornados, how seismographs measure earthquakes, and how cloud formations determine how rain occurs.

Another important aspect of sustainability includes cleanliness. Jenna VanHouten and Gianna Weah from LRS did a “Five Second Rule” project that investigated the cleanliness of the floors at school and at home and how it applies to the five-second rule for dropping food on the floor.

Technology also made a strong showing at this year’s expo. Curtiss commented that she was excited to see two students do coding projects this year.

“A young girl created a ‘Mad Libs’ code that asked you a series of questions and created a funny story just like a Mad Libs we all used to play with as kids. Antonio Coe at Lincoln/Roosevelt created an alphabetizing program. His code allowed you to enter a series of words then it would automatically alphabetize the list for you. It’s exciting to see the potential in computer programming for these students.”

Roxbury is committed to the development of the whole child. We are preparing our students to be global citizens, who will be scientifically literate to make informed decisions about health, safety, welfare, and environmental stewardship.

They say it takes a village to raise a child. This event helped showcase that exact point with the help and support of the district staff.

Leading up to the expo teachers encouraged their students to take part in the event. Curtiss shared, “LRS teachers even gave an extra push by offering their students extra-credit in science. I also encouraged all schools to participate with a bit of competition to see which school could have the most students at the event. This year Franklin Elementary School had the most representatives with 43 students registered.”

The Expo itself saw numerous teachers and principals and even the PreK-5 Humanities Supervisor came to hear and see the student projects. “Karen Kovarik and Kathleen Byrne from Kennedy, Jennifer Hallet and Susanna Rodgers from Lincoln/Roosevelt, and Shawn Smith from Eisenhower Middle School are just a few I saw. We even had a group of four teachers run investigation tables on the day of the Expo. Two amazing teachers from Jefferson, Erica Iuvone and Kelsey Fox ran a table about how to recycle and reuse paper and a teacher from Franklin, Jennifer Dranoff, and Nixon, Kurtis Start teamed up to run an investigation table on magnets. All of these investigations are from our new science curriculum,” shared Curtiss.

Another teacher that participated was the EMS STEM teacher, Phil Moskowitz. He opened up his seventh and eighth grade STEM Lab for parents and students to explore the different opportunities these students will be afforded when they reach this grade level. Students from his classes and the EMS Robotics Team were on hand to showcase the projects and talents of these programs including basic coding and the use of 3-D printers.

An exciting addition to this year’s program came from the Girl Scouts. They brought with them their Star Lab that was set up in the LOI (Lab of Inquiry). This inflatable planetarium showed a 20-minute presentation on the stars to all 150 participants. Students were also able to make and take a star guide. This was brought to us by Kim Leckie from the Girl Scouts of Northern New Jersey.

This year’s Expo saw an expansion of vendor tables and displays that encouraged the exploration of STEAM and Sustainability. A special thank you goes out to the teachers and groups already named along with the LRS Tech Club, Mad Science of Morris and Sussex, Morris County MUA, Roxbury Clean Communities, Bayer, LRS PTO, and Engineering for Kids.

For the second year, Roxbury High School students volunteered as student ambassadors for the event. Those students included Greg and Jessica Allen, Rachel Feliciano, Sarah and Robbie Waldron, Lyndsey Corsi, and Kaytlynn Chey. Glenn shared, “This is a unique opportunity for our older kids to work with the younger kids within our district. They assisted with registration, being our DJ for the event, set-up, take down, and general go to people. All of our ambassadors are volunteers and they love working with the younger students.”

Adding, “The younger students look up to them and see them as a friendly face. It made sense to add this component to the Expo last year. Our elementary schools lay the foundation for our students. We also had the honor of being visited once again by our mascot, The Gael. He listened to many presentations, took pictures with the students, and led our final parade. We are a district that honors the past, celebrates the present, and embraces the future.”

The high school student ambassadors are also a part of the Roxbury High School mini-THON who are working to raise money for Four Diamonds and pediatric cancer research. THON students sold snacks, water, THON and Swan Daddy t-shirts at the event to help raise funds to help support their upcoming THON on Friday, March 16th. $150 was raised at the Expo to help in the fight.

As a community, we work together to help students grow and expand their minds and the STEAM Expo is just another way Roxbury Schools celebrates the diversity of the children. “It’s really nice to see an event where our entire community comes together for the love of science,” shared Curtiss.

“My number one hope for this event is that all students involved grow to love science, engineering, and math. I want students to develop a love of inquiry and learning that will motivate them to investigate phenomenon throughout their lives.”

Students that participated in the STEAM Expo were each given participatory certificates and STEAM t-shirts and were encouraged to bring their projects to school on Monday so they could be showcased at the school for the rest of their peers to see.

Franklin Principal Lisa Ferrare and Kennedy Principal Eric Renfors both shared that their students’ work is on display and is getting a lot of attention since putting them out.

Jefferson Principal Melissa Cosgrove went on to say, “This event has evolved over the years and I love how interactive it has become for all the students. I was so impressed with the innovative projects the students came up with but more so, I was captivated by how well-spoken the children were while explaining their process.”

Superintendent Loretta Radulic said it best, “Events like the STEAM Expo offer a multitude of opportunities to our students to shine, to be leaders, to explore and to discover.”

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