Jefferson students work with Harvard High School students to create polymers.
An inflated balloon taped to a drinking straw hangs on a kite string stretched across a Washington School classroom. pre-K student Isaac Rivera Arce holds the balloon. Visiting Jefferson Elementary fifth-grader Kayla Pichardo signals to Isaac to release the balloon. Isaac let’s go and the balloon rocket sails across the room. Both students flash a smile at the successful demonstration of forward motion. The thrust experiment is part of Harvard’s new STEM Buddies program that pairs fifth-grader with pre-K students.
Beginning this fall, Jefferson Elementary fifth-graders visit Washington School to conduct experiments with their younger partners. Fifth-grade teacher Erin Kruckenberg explained “All fifth-grade students and all of the pre-K classes are participating. STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) offers students an opportunity to collaborate, lead, develop a growth mindset, and of course learn.” Students activities include engineering challenges like constructing bridges made of dry spaghetti to see how much weight they can withstand before breaking.
Washington Principal Steve Torrez said, “Our data suggests we benefit from expanded opportunities in math and science, and STEM Buddies provides a unique avenue of learning for our students.” Citing educational researcher John Hattie, Torrez found the use of student peers as educators allow students to take control of their learning. “It was incredible to see the similarities in content from early childhood to fifth grade,” Torrez said. “We started with forces of gravity, a fifth-grade standard, and linked that to preschool learning such as observing, asking questions, solving problems, and drawing conclusions.”
The program has made an impact on Kruckenberg’s students. “Jefferson students love it, she said. “They leave Washington beaming with pride and joy. Some of my students have commented on how important they felt. They loved taking the lead and guiding pre-K students through the activities. Students have made comments about how they were in those classes only five years ago. They were impressed with themselves at how much they have learned in that short time. One student even said, ‘Imagine what we will learn in the next five.’”
In the fall of 2017, freshman Alex Hildreth began Drafting I at Harvard High School. It was Alex’s first drafting class and Industrial Drafting and CAD instructor Erin Mihelich’s first year as an educator in Harvard. Alex found an immediate connection with drafting. As Alex says, drafting means “I can bring my ideas to life.”
Recognizing Alex’s talent and ability to generate ideas quickly, Mihelich encouraged him to join a team of nine Harvard students at the Illinois Design Educators Association’s county competition held on March 2. Given only 90 minutes to express his concepts effectively, Alex won first place in the category of Architectural Board Drafting.
Drafting is a graphic language used to communicate through drawing. Students at the high school create detailed mechanical drawings and architectural drafts in their classes. Mihelich explains that students learn “how to express three-dimensional objects in two dimensions.”
In the future, Alex hopes to build his own home, relying on the drafting skills he’s developed. He also plans to enroll in Mihelich’s CAD class as he continues his studies.
Having been a professional architect for over ten years, Mihelich is excited to be working in technical education as she sees an industry need for talent and career opportunities for students after high school.
On April 14 Alex will participate in the 41st Annual 2017-2018 IDEA Drafting Competition at Illinois State University.
As part of Computer Science Education Week, students at Jefferson Elementary built and programmed robots to understand real-world science applications.
Using grant money provided by the Harvard Community Education Foundation along with funds from the Illinois Mathematics and Science Partnerships Program, extended curriculum instructor Amy Handley purchased LEGO Education WeDo sets for Jefferson’s STEM lab. The sets enable students to build, engineer, problem solve, and program with robotics while also learning Next Generation Science Standards.
4th graders built an earthquake simulator and created bar graphs to illustrate which buildings could withstand earthquakes. 5th graders are currently building and programming rovers as they study space exploration and the unique engineering challenges scientists face. The classic ABS plastic bricks create immediate student engagement while also encouraging collaboration and communication.
Proving that science can appeal to all learners, there’s not one student in Ms. Handley’s class that’s ready to leave their work when the class period ends.
Classrooms throughout Jefferson are participating in the Hour of Code this week.
Over the last month, extended curriculum students at Harvard Junior High School performed audits during lunch periods in the hope of improving food services and reducing overall food waste.
Under the guidance of teacher Amanda Thompson, students surveyed lunch periods and collected data on food waste in the junior high’s cafeteria. The students, who self-titled themselves “Fambassdors” (food ambassadors) found in their first audit that the school wasted 90 pounds of food during lunch. According to the GRACE Communications Foundation’s Water Calculator, this food equates to 39,000 gallons of water wasted. Over the course of a school year, the waste would equal nearly 7,000,000 gallons of water.
Students also met with Aramark Food Service Director Brittany Marsden to develop changes to reduce the waste: offering different culinary choices, ensuring students know what is available ahead of time, and making sure students know they are not required to take food they do not wish to eat.
Ultimately students are working to inform the school community about water waste so that students can make smarter lunch choices. Thanks to the students’ work, the junior high has reduced the average waste down to 33.5 pounds per day.
On Saturday, students will share their research and compete in Woodstock’s First Lego League Tournament held at Northwood Middle School.
Under the direction of Harvard Junior High’s STEM lab teacher Susan Iles, eighth graders Kasen Mortimer and Evan Lich created a stop-motion film mixing their STEM studies with the creative arts. Both students participated in FUSE challenges throughout their first quarter. FUSE is an interest-driven learning experience developed by researchers and educators at Northwestern University. The program incorporates adaptive problem-solving into coursework and leveling-up challenges that require students to build upon knowledge from previous projects.
For the end of the quarter, Mrs. Iles developed a series of “beyond FUSE” challenges for her students. Given the option to make a stop-motion film, the two students jumped at the chance.
Using an iPad, the students painstakingly photographed clay figures, adding slight movements between individual frames. The completed photographs were combined in the video editing program Splice, creating the illusion of motion. With an abundance of yellow clay, Kasen knew that their story’s hero should resemble a famous video game character from the early 1980s.
The final project, which utilized math, science, art, and a bit of eighth grade humor, can be viewed here: