Dever Elementary – STEM Field Trip (10.29.20)

On Thursday, November 29th we had another STEM Field Trip, this time with the Dever Elementary School in Boston, in which 63 students in grades 4 and 5 attended virtually. The field trip ran all day (from 8:40am to 2:10pm), covering Engineering and the Design Process, as well as Natural Disasters. The day started off with the introduction to engineering presentation, which segwayed into our Natural Disasters presentation and activity, wherein students learned about Natural Hazards/Disasters and how to prepare and plan for them by creating their own disaster plans and emergency kits. Each group was assigned its own natural disaster to focus on: Pandemics, Earthquakes, Flooding, Hurricanes, Blizzards, or Heatwaves. Students thought about and included ideas for communications (when power is out, contacting relatives), power outages (what to do about food, how to stay entertained, what to do in the dark), how to help vulnerable populations (elderly, non-English speakers, those with disabilities), and money (interesting comment about how credit card readers wouldn’t work without power so you should always have cash on hand, but make sure it’s in a safe place so it doesn’t get wet, burnt, stolen).

Next, students participated in a civil engineering design challenge, in which they designed flooding-proof, load-bearing structures – i.e. paper towers to carry weight. During the first round of designs and building, only a few students were able to support the weight of their load (usually a can, bottle, or other weight). However, using some really clever ideas shared by the students and the attending teacher, many more students were able to support their loads (or additional loads, such as textbooks or full water bottles) in the second round of building. One idea that really stuck with me (and I’ve done this activity 30+ times) included a suggestion by one of the teachers to fold the edges of the paper in on itself to hold the paper in place – this acts as a sort of tape and can save you tape to use in other places (or to build a tape-less structure) [see bottom left in the picture at top of page].
After lunch, the students participated in a Natural Disasters/ELA-connection activity: Natural Disasters and Story-Telling. The students are currently reading “Love that Dog” by Sharon Creech, a wonderful book about poetry (and a dog) – so we focused on telling our natural disaster (COVID-19) stories through poetry. Students worked on incorporating the various aspects of poetry they’re learning in class into their natural disaster poems, such as alliteration (Covid can chill), repetition (zoom zoom zoom), and imagery, as well as different ways of writing their poems free verse and rhyme schemes. Besides poetry, other ways to tell our stories include artwork and music (such as these 40 songs about COVID-19).

We concluded the day with our STEM/College 101 Panel, led by our two S-POWER students Tyree (Bioengineering ’21), Madisyn (Electrical Engineering ’21), and Hadeel (Computer Science ’23). Students asked questions about college, science, and Natural Disasters. One of the students asked, “are you famous? do you work with famous people” – which was an interesting discussion – since famous people are typically celebrities and not scientists/engineers (can you name a famous scientist or engineer from the past 50 years?) – but Northeastern is full of famous faculty within their own specialized fields. My go-to “famousness” meter is whether or not you have a wikipedia page. Did you know there’s a list of NU people page?

In regards to the feedback below, in the future, I will work towards making our teaching and content more ESL/ELL-friendly, in a way that works both virtually and in person.

Student Feedback:
Average Rating: 0.95 | KEY: 1 = :), 0 = :|, -1 = 🙁

  • In my opinion the best part the event was when questions were asked and answered. It was my favorite part because you can learn about what they [STEM panelists] do and get to know them better.
  • the famous people telling me what they do it, so awsome!
  • One thing I learned from today was that all the people that work as an engineer work hard and take time in their days just to help people who have hard times in the city.
  • One thing I learned is that it can be fun to plan and create things and this can be my job

Teacher Feedback:
Average Rating: 4.5 | KEY: 5 = highest, 1 = lowest

  • The entire day was well planned and connected. The kids enjoyed doing the natural disaster plans. The engineering is always a favorite and the students really enjoyed building the towers. It is making me think of doing a “paper bridge engineering challenge” with students. The STEM/College panel was a fantastic way to wrap up the end of the trip.
  • I also enjoyed the way STEM was introduced and the activity of building a tower. You did a great job introducing natural disasters. Students had a meaningful experience in writing about natural disasters. I also appreciated how integrating it into our daily schedule. Loved how you were able to integrate poetry into the day.
  • The only suggest is specific to our students at the Dever. We have a lot of students who speak Spanish (and other languages, Kurdish, Arabic, Vietnamese) and it would be nice if some of the program was in multiple languages to celebrate that asset or to help kids understanding in their native language.

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