In late May, the hallways at Dormont Elementary buzzed with activity as teams of students rotated through various science experiments and activities as part of the school’s Science Olympiad. Students learned about bones by assembling skeleton puzzles. Local optometrist Dr. Brian Pauchnik taught students about the various parts and functions of the eye. Dormont Police D.A.R.E. Officer Tom Madden and Keystone Oaks’ School Resource Officer John Bruner used forensic science to teach students how to solve crimes. Teams of students learned about pitch and frequency by arranging glasses filled with water to properly play tunes like “Mary had a Little Lamb.” Others constructed volcanoes with foam plates and tinfoil and mixed baking soda, vinegar and dish soap to create and eruption. And others learned about muscles by exercising with the Pittsburgh Riverhounds’ athletic trainer.
Organized by teachers Lori DeMartino and Kim Puffer, the Science Olympiad is supported financially by local businesses, making it free for the school to conduct.
“Most of the time, students don’t even realize that they are learning about science, engineering and math,” teacher Lori DeMartino said. “For them, it’s a day filled with fun activities. Really, they are fine-tuning the skills that are so essential for success in the future.”
Studio & Stage
Elementary art teacher Lisa Thoft and music teacher Rob Naser organized the first “Studio & Stage” night at Dormont Elementary School. Students in first, second and third grade and their guests enjoyed an evening of art and music activities, including a drum circle, kite making, puppets, a sound bar, mask making and origami. The event was supported in part by a $500 Remake Learning grant.
“The idea for “Studio & Stage” came to life as a result of the Arts Education Collaborative’s self-assessment of the District’s art and music programs,” Ms. Thoft said. “We were encouraged to explore ideas outside of the traditional “band concert and art show” and to provide students with more diverse opportunities in art and music. “Studio & Stage” was a fun night of engaging, hands-on art and music projects for students and their guests and we are excited to expand the format to the other elementary schools next year,” she added.
Myrtle Elementary STEAM Day
Fourth grade students at Myrtle Elementary participated in the school’s second annual STEAM Day, where activities were chosen to emphasize each aspect of STEAM. Teams of students competed in an interactive, online science trivia game. In another activity, students collaborated with their teammates to solve Fibonacci’s Sequence. Engineering skills were tested in an activity that had students load paperclips on a barge made of tinfoil to determine how many it could hold before sinking in water. Using a box of materials, including red plastic cups, paper towel rolls, masking tape, paperclips, clear plastic bottles and shoe boxes, students were challenged to build the tallest structure that could hold a tennis ball at the top. And, students used a box of materials to build a catapult that could launch a dime a specific distance.
“Students had to use their critical thinking skills and, as a team, decide how they would solve the challenges presented at each station,” Mrs. Rosgone said. “Students were engaged and were really putting to use the skills that are so essential for 21st century living and working.”
At the secondary level, science teacher Nadine Pisani organized the Middle School’s first STREAM Night, a community event that gave more than 150 attendees the opportunity to engage in hands-on activities with local businesses and non-profit organizations. Attendees learned about Archimedes Principle with ALCOSAN, discovered the importance of tight fitting gloves from the Society of Women Engineers, planted a spider plant with Phipps Conservatory, flew drones and watched 3-D printing in action with Instant Robotics, learned about renewable energy from Robert Morris University, rolled dice to discover how renewable energy can be connected to create unique works of art with the Land Art Generator Initiative, made creatures with glowing LED lights with ASSEMBLE, discussed manufacturing in Pennsylvania with Catalyst Connections and built structures of modeling clay and toothpicks with the University of Pittsburgh School of Engineering.
“This night was about showcasing the integration of science, technology, reading, engineering, art and mathematics across the middle school’s curriculum,” Ms. Pisani said. “From poetry recordings, to fine and dynamic art displays, interactive math quizzes, building roller coasters and the annual book fair, our teachers really worked together to demonstrate how the principles of STEM education are integrated into the classes for middle school students. The participating organizations further demonstrated how these same principles are put to use in the real world.”
Energy Innovation Center
At Keystone Oaks High School, nine students took part in a Design Challenge for the Energy Innovation Center. Students collaborated with their peers from four local school districts to design the façade of the building and presented their findings to a panel of professionals from the Energy Innovation Center, The Penn State Center in Pittsburgh, 4H and the Parkway West Career & Technology Center.
Keystone Oaks students were responsible for bringing the project to life by creating the two- and three-dimensional designs of the proposed solution using AutoCAD and 3D modeling programs.
“By working on this project, the students learned a lot of valuable real-world skills, such as working in collaboration with others to come to a consensus and developing design features that can work with real-world limitations,” said technology education teacher Jeff Oestreich.
Partnerships & Professional Development
Just as collaboration is one of the skills emphasized in STEAM education, the District’s STEAM classes, program and events would not be possible without support from a number of organizations who continue to provide programs and resources for students, teachers and administrators.
- The Arts Education Collaborative has continued to lend their expertise to administrators as they design the new elementary STEAM course. Lisa Thoft and Rob Naser were chosen to participate in the 2016 Arts Education Collaborative Leadership Academy, a year-long professional development opportunity.
- Keystone Oaks was one of 11 local school districts selected to participate in the Carnegie Science Center’s Carnegie STEM Excellence Pathway Partners program. The cohort of administrators and teachers will work to share ideas and identify resources to improve STEM education.
- Thanks to a partnership with Cisco, female students in the middle school were exposed to careers in the technology field. Accompanied by middle school librarian Lainey Resetar and technology education teacher Andy Bochicchio, 7th and 8th grade students participated in “Girls in ICT” day and “Girls Power Tech” day at Cisco’s North Side offices.