Middle School Elective: S.T.E.A.M.I.S.A.

Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Mathematics Interactive Simulation Activities is a new elective class offered to middle school students. An objective of this class is to spark the interest of students by encouraging them to think broadly, participate and contribute in activities by integrating the five named subject areas.  One such opportunity occurred this fall when 7th graders combined the skills of Science (motion), Technology (iPads), Engineering (animation) and Arts (story telling) to produce their own cartoon using the App Toontastic. 

Students developed an original story and then self-created their own visually appealing animation and narration to tell their story as a cartoon.  This S.T.E.A.M. activity certainly did not disappoint when it came to seeing students using their own initiative, creativity and innovative productivity!

See their work!

Higher Order Thinking in Social Studies Using Minecraft?

By Angie Bender, Middle School Teacher

After completing our social studies unit on Medieval Europe, students in the seventh-grade were tasked with demonstrating their understanding of the role of a medieval manor by constructing a feudal manor using Minecraft. Minecraft allows students an opportunity to work on mathematics, visual arts, storytelling and digital learning in an engaging environment. Some students gain their first experience learning how to code while others continue to hone and advance their coding ability. 

Class time was given to students to design their manor. Some students used iPads and others used their laptops. Once the Minecraft design was created students then had to record a four-minute video explaining what life on a manor was like. Many students added a final touch by incorporating medieval music to their video.

Technology is evolving everyday and at St. John’s our students to explore, build and create so that they have an opportunity to develop a passion for science, technology, engineering and math. Here is an example of the final Medieval Manor Minecraft Video Project from Avery and Olivia:

Minecraft Village

California Landmarks: Learning and collaborating

As part of the history-social science standards in third grade, students are to learn about landmarks, both on local and national levels. Our students just enjoyed a fun learning experience that allowed them to learn about a variety of our famous landmarks here in California. 

The California Landmarks project is one of the first collaborative projects done in third grade each year. Students were assigned a partner and specific landmark for this activity. Throughout the project, pupils utilize and develop a variety of academic and social skills. The research was done online, so students practiced digital learning and citizenship. Once they finished their research, students communicated the information they learned by designing a poster that sharing interesting facts, marked its location on a map, and included an illustration of their landmark. The final step incorporated Mrs. Grack’s STEM class and saw students design a ‘Clips’ presentation of their landmark. Throughout this learning process, students collaborated with a partner, which increased learning and more importantly, developed teamwork.

The collaboration between students was not just occurring in the classroom. Currently there are students participating in the Mustangs Online program and learning from home, and in this particular project, in-person students in the classroom were able to connect with Mustangs Online students via Zoom. These partners worked together over the course of multiple days and brought students in our ‘classroom’ together.

By: Mr. C – 3rd Grade

Read Across America Day 

Last Monday, March 2nd, we celebrated Read Across America Day. Our day was filled with lots of fun STEM type activities to help us connect with some of our favorite Dr. Seuss books. Dr. Hollatz started us off by reading The Foot Booksince we were all wearing crazy socks. We practiced skip counting to find out the number of girls’, boys’, and adults’ feet we have in our class. We talked about taking care of our earth after we read The Loraxthen balanced pom poms on top of Truffula trees we’d made. Fair treatment for all was our topic after hearing Yertle the Turtlethen stacked as many turtles as we could. Everyone had a chance to work together to stack 100 read cups to represent a giant hat after we read The Cat in the Hat. We ended our special day with two cool gifts to take home. Everyone got to choose a Dr. Seuss eraser and pencil! Oh the thinks you can think!! 

By: Mrs. Cook, 1st Grade

From sea to shining sea, American schools celebrated “Read Across America”  this week.  St. John’s Lutheran School was no exception.  In every classroom, teachers discussed their own favorite, age-appropriate books during informal book talks.  Students, therefore, were exposed to unfamiliar books, prompting many to jot down titles and authors on cards provided by their teachers. Teachers also provided a “free reading” period of time in their teaching schedules, further emphasizing the enjoyment and creative stimulation that reading for pleasure can provide.  Students gratefully took advantage of their teachers’ gift of reading time.

By far, the favorite part of our SJLS “Read Across America” activities was the costume choice that many students (and some brave teachers!) made to honor a favorite literary character.  The halls were filled with min-Harry Potters, junior-Where’s Waldos, and faux-Dr. Seuss characters.  Discussions and laughter overflowed on campus, as students attempted to guess their peers’ literary characters.

Students focused on reading.  People wore costumes.  Laughter erupted.  All told, the day was a complete success. Oh, the places we went!

By: Mr. Smith, 7th grade

Ask…Imagine… Plan…Create…Improve! 6th Grade Engineers!

Recently, our 6th graders dove into the Engineering Design Process. Each student individually took on the challenge of designing and building an insulating device that can hold 200mL of hot water and trap the most heat for 20 minutes. To prepare for this challenge, the students studied the transfer of heat, differentiated between insulators and conductors, and researched good household materials to use as insulators.

Once the research and designs were created, it was time to build their devices! Each student built their own unique design and tested it. Once they tested their device the 6th graders had the opportunity to analyze their trial one data, reflect on the effectiveness of their design, and modify their thermos for a second trial! 

To reflect on the whole Engineering Design Process from start to finish, the students wrote a personal narrative to add to their middle school writing portfolio. They published their narrative on Flipgrid and had the opportunity to encourage one another by commenting on each other’s videos. 

Whew! Our 6th graders worked hard to sharpen their 21st Century skills as they thought critically, used creativity to design and build their thermos, collaborated with others, and communicated their experiences with the engineering design process!

By: Yvette Stuewe, Middle School Science