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Towamensing students get hands-on experience

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    Sixth-grade student Jocelyn Matola, left, prepares to test her “Mars lander” as Grace Schneider watches on Friday at Towamensing Elementary School. Students took part in a variety of STEM activities to celebrate National STEM Day. William Zeky’s sixth-grade class was tasked with trying to keep two Ping-Pong balls in the cup as they dropped it from varying heights. Read more about the activities on Page 5. JARRAD HEDES/TIMES NEWS

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    Benjamin Henery-Amorim and Anya Garger, second-grade students at Towamensing Elementary School, work together to build a Ferris wheel during National STEM Day activities. JARRAD HEDES/TIMES NEWS

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    Hailey Barry and Jagger Serfass, sixth-grade students at Towamensing Elementary School, build a Mars lander Friday during a National STEM Day project in William Zeky’s class. JARRAD HEDES/TIMES NEWS

Published November 13. 2019 01:20PM


While a group of second-graders were re-creating the first Ferris wheel, sixth-grade students on the other side of the building were trying to successfully land their Mars lander without losing the Ping-Pong balls inside them.

It was all part of Towamensing Elementary School’s National Science Technology Engineering Mathematics Day activities Friday, aimed at promoting STEM learning opportunities for all students, and arming them with 21st century employability skills.

“Our teachers promote the STEM ideals with different activities throughout the year, but there is a special focus this week,” Towamensing Principal Christine Steigerwalt said.

Francine Kluck, Carbon Schuylkill Luzerne STEM coordinator, said teachers this year were asked to “gear up and offer STEM-based opportunities in their classrooms, across grade levels, building wide, or, even better, integrate STEM with some form of service learning project for the local community.”

Students in William Zeky’s sixth-grade class strived to keep two marshmallows (the astronauts) inside their Mars lander cup while dropping it from varying heights. The supply list for the activity included four large marshmallows, 10 small marshmallows, six index cards, four rubber bands, four Popsicle sticks and scrap paper, as well as items like scissors, tape and measuring tape.

Zeky said a group of students dropped their Mars lander from as high as 9 feet while still landing soft enough to keep the Ping-Pong balls inside.

“The main goal is to have them working as a team to solve a complex problem,” Zeky said. “The students are just starting to get into algebra, and math is full of complex problems, so the feeling is if they’re able to work this out, they will be that much more prepared for some of the lessons coming up.”

As a follow-up, Zeky said, students will be using formulas to calculate the impact velocity of their Mars landers.

Meanwhile, second-grade teacher Krystle Meglio started out the morning reading a book about the first Ferris wheel, built for the World’s Fair in 1893, before students traveled back in time to re-create it on their own.

“The goal is to design the wheel so it spins around the axle,” Meglio told students.

Students worked in groups to design their wheel before putting their ideas to the test using a wheel cutout, tape, straws and scissors.

Among the other Towamensing STEM activities:

• Students used cups and index cards to stack pumpkins. They also made gates for five pumpkins to sit on using Popsicle sticks, clothespins and pumpkin candles.

• Students in fifth grade made a marble maze in a box using straws, cups and paper to have a turkey get from the beginning of the maze to the end. They needed to include obstacles and dead ends and reflect as a team on their challenges, what materials worked best and how they would do things differently.

• Other fifth-grade students designed and created a crate to keep a tea bag dry for the longest period of time in a tub of cold water.

• After watching a video titled “Do You Want To Be An Engineer?” students discussed that career choice.

• Students were introduced to Tetris and tried to build solid walls with unusually shaped pieces.

• Students created a food shopping basket with various materials and were challenged to suspend food (plastic food) for up to 10 seconds in their basket.

• Students built various structures with wooden blocks and KEVA planks such as a house, bridge, the Eiffel Tower, the Empire State Building and the Great Pyramids.



Science is exciting, and the key to unlock the true wonders of the universe, bravo to the educators looking to inspire these future tax paying voters in the excitement of the natural world

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