Article | Ware River News

Projects include creating math board games

Check out this article from Ware River News about Ware Middle School’s participation in the STEM Week Challenge!

By Eileen Kennedy

WARE — Ware Middle School teachers and students have been embracing STEM activities as the STEM Week Challenge got underway this fall and they’ve submitted the students’ project [sic] to be judged by industry experts, according to WMS Principal Katie Anne DeMars.

WMS students participated last year in groups, but this year due to COVID-19 restrictions, the challenge is being done individually by students, she said.

The challenges were created with an eye to using materials children already had in their home, such as straws, paper clips, paper and cardboard, DeMars said.

Students attending in-person classes two days a week individually made their own math games, which were made from recycled objects like cereal boxes, construction paper and plastic bottles. After they created their games, they donned gloves, and with their masks on, took turns trying out each game while keeping a safe distance from each other. Remote students created bottle rockets, volcanic activity and water activities. The games incorporated subtraction, multiplication and division skills. 

Mass STEM Hub, a program of the One8 Foundation, announced the launch of the STEM Week Challenge, a hands-on, applied learning experience for kindergarten through grade 12 students occurring during the state’s STEM Week effort. 

The initiative is a free, flexible and engaging way for educators to teach meaningful STEM subject matter while having students solve real-world problems that bring STEM to life, whether they are attending school in person or virtually. Partners In Health, Dell Technologies, and New England Aquarium partnered with Mass STEM Hub to develop the challenges and provide employees to judge student work. 

Ware is just one of more than 200 schools that have signed up for the challenge statewide, which includes about 30,000 students to implement the challenge, and the winners will be announced in November. 

Last year a group of WMS students one [sic] first place in the STEM Challenge “Project the Lead the Way,” which had students coming up with solutions for machines that could pick up trash. 

“We are super excited about taking part in the challenge,” DeMars said of teachers and students. “I think it’s just great that you can take English Language Arts, math and science concepts and apply them to real-world applications. Hopefully this can trigger an interest in a student and even give them ideas about possible careers, such as game designer.” 

She also said it was exciting as an administrator to see the effect of working on the challenges for students. 

Challenges deepen connections

“Applied learning deepens the way students connect with academics and teachers connect with students, and that connection is more important than ever as students and teachers start school during COVID-19,” said Joanna Jacobson, President of the One8 Foundation, in written release about the challenge. “The STEM Week Challenge and its real-world, project-based learning strives to prepare students to be adaptive learners, persevering through challenges and thriving in an ever-changing world.”

The challenges, which are aligned to the Massachusetts Learning Standards, were developed with high-quality curriculum partners Innovative Learning Partners, PBLWorks, Project Lead The Way, and ST Math, organizations that are experts in applied learning, provide valued support to teachers, and that Mass STEM Hub works with regularly throughout the year. Industry partners Partners In Health, Dell Technologies, and New England Aquarium, as well as IBM and Bionic Project Inc., were instrumental in the design by providing real-world context to the student challenges. At each grade level, students have the opportunity to connect with experts from these industry partners amongst other organizations, asking questions and soliciting feedback on their projects.

High school students will develop an original app that aims to slow the spread of COVID-19 in their communities. Middle school students will use the engineering design process to design an adaptive device for individuals with paralysis. Elementary school students will develop their own math game that challenges users to hone their math skills.

“The STEM Week Challenge offers students the best of all worlds as they get to experience applied learning in action and combine critical thinking and STEM education with industry-aligned skills,” said Dr. Vince Bertram, president and CEO of Project Lead The Way. “By connecting what students are learning in the classroom — whether that’s in person, remote, or hybrid this fall — with what work professionals are doing in the real world, we are setting our students up for academic success today and building their skills to be ready to succeed in an ever-changing world.”

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