Grandview Heights Schools: STEM students explore through library's activity stations

Alan Froman
ThisWeek group
Stevenson Elementary School first-grader Audrey Ward uses Ozobots (little robots) to create artwork. Students use the markers to draw a code. Then the Ozobots scan the colors from the markers and move based on what colors the students choose.

When Stevenson Elementary School's 21st Century Learning coach, Jessica Fields, applied for a Grandview Heights Marble Cliff Education Foundation grant last school year, her plan was to use the funds for a program in the classroom during the 2020-21 school year.

The $2,447 grant allowed Fields to purchase STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) bins.

Each bin was built around a STEM theme, with books, toys, manipulatives and task ideas to match the theme.

"I was planning to go to classrooms with a read-aloud book (and) then have the students work on an activity that related to the book," Fields said.

The books and activities would relate to a different theme for each grade level, including design thinking for kindergartners and engineering for first-graders, she said.

The grant was awarded in May 2020 during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic.

With the pandemic's continuation into this school year and Grandview Heights Schools operating in either a remote or hybrid model of learning until March, the program she had planned, like so many other activities, had to be delayed and then reconfigured when students returned to 100% in-person school in March, Fields said.

She collaborated with Stevenson media specialist Kristi Jump to set up 10 STEM activity stations in the school library, using some of the activities and materials Fields had been planning to bring into classrooms.

"We were able to reconfigure the media center and place the stations so there was a proper amount of social distancing between each station," Jump said. 

Students had not been able to use the library as a class due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic and social-distancing requirements, she said.

"Two students can work at each station sitting 3 feet apart," Jump said. "The kids have been thriving and loving to be able to use the library once again."

The stations are being used this year by kindergarten and first-grade classes only, Fields said.

"We're planning to expand it to all grade levels next school year," she said.

And it's likely the program will remain in the media center and not in the classrooms, even if coronavirus restrictions are lifted by next school year, Fields said.

Statewide, most mandates are expected to be lifted June 2.

"We've actually seen some benefits from having the students come to the media center rather than me going to the classroom," Fields said. "It's been an unanticipated positive outcome.

"I think there's something about changing your space and getting up and out of the classroom," she said. "It triggers their thinking in a more creative way."

Students also are able to use the creative-thinking skills they're developing in the media-center activities in their classroom assignments, she said.

The STEM stations are actually more STEAM, with some of the activities involving art to make easier use of the library space than could be done with science or math tasks, Fields said. 

"The art activities change every week," she said.

Those activities have included such tasks as asking students to create a depiction of an instrument that does not yet exist or imagine and create a drawing of the two places that a bridge would connect, Fields said.

Two stations are designed to give students an introduction to the concept of coding, she said.

In one activity, students use markers to mark how they want miniature machines called Ozobots to maneuver across a piece of paper.

"They are using the markers to draw a code," Fields said. "The Ozobots scan the colors from the markers and move based on what colors the students choose."

The activities at engineering stations include building towers using red plastic cups; using wood blocks to create models of such famous landmarks as the Eiffel Tower or the Colosseum; and using magnetic tiles to build structures.

Students show a lot of imagination and creativity in the magnetic-tile activity, Fields said.

"It's so amazing the backstories they come up with about the structures they are building," she said. "They have so much more imagination and creativity than I have as an adult. It makes me wonder why we lose that along the way as we get older."

First-grader Sam Crossley said he likes some of the activities that involve drawing things.

"It's fun to use your imagination," he said. "You get to be creative."

First-grader Audrey Ward said she likes the challenge of trying to get the Ozobots to move the way she wants them to.

"You draw a path for them to follow, and then you wait to see if the robots stay on the path," she said. "It's a challenge. It's kind of hard, but it's also fun."

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