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Students, staff, and families raise the bar for #STEMtober at Heritage Elementary School.

Heritage ROCKS #STEMtober

November 05, 2018

“At Heritage, STEM is a big deal!”, says Gabriela Gomez, fifth grader at Heritage Elementary School. Since becoming one of the HCPS Area 3 STEM Innovation Hub schools one year ago, Heritage has tremendously grown its STEM programs and these enhancements were fully evident in the month of October during the District’s #STEMtober initiative.

The Heritage STEM committee (composed of MaryJo Stover, Principal; Christopher Alvarez, Assistant Principal; Teresa Buckman, Site STEM Coordinator; Heather Velez, Technology Contact;  Monica Mukherjee, Intermediate Science Contact; Bethany Pancorvo, Primary Science Contact; Jessica Brown, Math Contact; Jean Josephson, Gifted resource; Heather Leitzke, ESE; Stephanie Hogan, ESE; Tami Van-Treese, Kindergarten; Jessica Middleton, First grade; Natalie Boze, Second grade; and Nicole Teagarden, Third grade) rallied the troops to kick off a STEMtastic year with the STEM Family Night.  Families started their evening with dinner and a brief presentation by Tampa Bay STEM Network and Moffit Cancer Center and then traveled through Makerspace stations, robotics labs, Lego building stations, Bloxels and 3-D pen activities, and math card games. The evening was a huge success and opened the doors to what would be an incredible STEMtober!

Though STEM Family Night was a tough act to follow, STEM stayed in the spotlight at Heritage. STEM Coordinator, Teresa Buckman took to the morning show with a Science fact of the day - donning her lab coat and safety glasses.  The morning show now continues to do this because it was so popular. 

During week two, teachers registered their classes for digital citizenship Nearpod instruction with our media specialist and technology contact, Mrs. Velez, presenting to every class.  Students learned about internet safety, cyberbullying, and how to be a responsible digital citizen during this training.

In week three, Heritage students enjoyed Design-A-Day challenges in their classrooms where the engineering design process and design thinking was the focal point.  At the week’s end, Heritage sent representatives to the Science Olympics at Leto High School. 

During the final week of STEMtober, classes buddied-up to explore science with their STEM buddies.  Kindergarten and first grade, second and third grade, and fourth and fifth grades paired-up to engage in activities together while making new friends and expanding scientific collaboration. One fifth grade class also paired up with our ESE department so ESE students were able to engage in STEM-based activities such as coding mice, Code-a-pillar, and magnetic painting. Kindergarten and first grade explored friction by “friction skating” with various materials and discussing how motion was changed as a result of the force of friction.  Second and third grade classes worked together on code.org and shared science notebooks. Fourth and fifth grade classes buddied up to launch straw rockets and rotate through energy stations.  Students enjoyed these pairings so much that teachers have agreed to make it a regular fixture at our school.

Also in the final week, five fine STEMinists at Heritage began working with Dr. Mini Sajan, Professor and Researcher at the University of South Florida through the Million Women Mentor (MWM) program.  Ms. Buckman, the Heritage Site Contact for this program, attended the MWM kickoff meeting at the Florida Aquarium which she procured copies of the book, Girls Who Code, by Reshma Saujani for each of the five Heritage participants in the program.  Special thanks to Larry Plank, Director of STEM Education at HCPS and the Tampa Bay STEM Network for bringing the Million Women Mentors program to our District and for making wonderful resources such as this amazing book and other STEM related materials available to our students. 

As the final hurrah for Heritage in STEMtober, members of the STEM Committee created a Spooky STEM Lab at our Fall Festival.  In this room, students visited and enriched scientific concepts and thinking at 3 different activities.  At station one (Frankenmice), students programmed coding mice through a maze to get the “mouse back to his house”.  The second station (Monster Mysteries), had sensory boxes where students could use their senses to try to guess what was in each box. The final station (Chuckin’ Pumpkin), gave a design challenge where students could choose materials to build a catapult to hurl a candy pumpkin to try to make it into a big plastic Jack-O-Lantern.  It was a wonderful experience for all students.

It was truly a month where Heritage students and faculty members were enveloped in STEM.  Although the month is over, we don’t consider this the end of STEMtober.  Rather, it is the start to a STEMtastic year, filled with exciting STEM learning opportunities!  In fact, Heritage has many STEM professional development opportunities that it is hosting to enrich faculty members across the District!  Heritage will also be involved in Math Bowl, Tivitz, Robotics competitions, Solar Car Racers, STEMpalooza, STEM fair and so much more. 

Stay tuned because, “at Heritage, STEM is a BIG DEAL!

Thanks to GUEST AUTHOR Teresa Buckman, M.Ed., Heritage Elementary School, 5th Grade Science, Faculty Advisor -HESC, Heritage STEM Coordinator [and #STEMtober Rockstar]!

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