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STEM Day at Bessborough

Grade 6 teacher Sarah Buksner and student teacher, Sasha Haber with a roller-coaster made out of plastic straws.

Grade 6 teacher Sarah Buksner and student teacher, Sasha Haber with a roller-coaster made out of plastic straws.

If you haven’t heard of STEM, you should know it’s one of the biggest trends in education and a new way of engaging students, especially female students, in learning more about science and math.

STEM is an acronym referring to science, technology, engineering and mathematics, and Leaside is not immune to its influence.

Recently, Bessborough Elementary and Middle School, partnering with Leaside High students, held a school-wide STEM Day to generate interest in these subjects through activities closely linked to the curriculum and focusing on inquiry-based learning.

arts and craftsAfter discussing the idea of a STEM Day with Principal Patricia Broderick, Grade 6 teacher Sarah Buksner gathered ideas, interest and help for each division of the school: kindergarten, primary (Grades 1 to 3), junior (Grades 3 to 6), and intermediate (Grades 7 and 8). Each division came up with a focus for its activities.

Using the theme of “Nature Helps,” the three kindergarten classes took part in five different activities during their morning session. At each activity, teacher Mark King, his educational assistant, Aki Miller, and parent volunteers Sarah Zimmerman and Katie Robertson engaged the students to promote inquiry-based learning and a more thoughtful approach to their work.

Leaside High School students from Grades 10, 11 and 12 science classes worked with participants in Grades 1 to 8 on their STEM activities under the guidance of the Curriculum Leader for Science Helen Panayiotou and Grade 10 teacher Mimoza Stermasi.

arts and craftsIn each classroom, the students rotated through two or three activities related to specific themes while the LHS students led the work at each station. The activities were chosen to match the curriculum requirements and interests of the students. In the primary grades, for instance, the theme was “Saving the World,” while the junior division focused on the “Engineers are Creators” theme, and the intermediate division chose “Innovation and Sustainability” as its theme.

The day was an unqualified success, especially in terms of the connection forged between the two groups of students. The teachers were very pleased with the effort and enthusiasm of the high school students, who enjoyed revisiting the more “hands-on” style of learning used in elementary school. And they were able to engage the attention of the younger children, who were thrilled to be working with the older students. As Ms. Buksner’s student teacher, Sasha Haber, said, “The high school students were indispensable in creating a successful day,” and Ms. Panayiotou noted that the day “instilled curiosity in both groups of students.”

arts and craftsMoreover, the teachers felt the time together demonstrated that closer communication between the schools would, as Ms. Buksner said, “ease the transition to high school and allow for more continuity in inquiry-based learning to capitalize on the interest in STEM activities at the feeder-school level.”

STEM Day definitely achieved its goal of “focusing on cross-curricular studies and creating excitement about collaborative learning,” said Ms. Buksner. And it showed the students that anyone can have fun and be successful in the maths and sciences – a worthwhile outcome indeed. Here’s to more STEM days in Leaside!