STEM Mini-Grants totaling more than $105,000 were awarded to 21 MISF member schools for projects implemented during the 2012-13 school year. Following is a list of the awardee schools and their project titles. Click on the school name to see a description of their project.
Academy of Holy Angels: Student Stimulation through STEM Simulation
Al-Amal School: Engineering is Everywhere!
Annunciation School: BrainPop Goes to the Science Fair
Calvin Christian School: Creating a Wildlife Habitat, Pond, and Outdoor Learning Center
Central Minnesota Christian School: New Elementary School Playground Equipment CAD Project
Maranatha Christian Academy: Vermicomposting
Mayer Lutheran High School: From Problem to Solution, Integrating 3D Fabrication in Multi-Curricular Areas
Minnehaha Academy: Teaching Science Through Robotics
Minnesota Waldorf School: A Welcome Home – Establishing Native Plant Communities
Our Lady of Peace Catholic School: Exploring STEM Concepts with LEGO Robotics
Pilgrim Lutheran School: Tweaking Time
Saint Jerome School: Biodiversity in the Backyard?!
Saint Rose of Lima Catholic School: The Outdoor Classroom
St. Croix Catholic School: Extending the Hands and Feet of Christ
Saint John’s Preparatory School: STEM Flipped Classrooms
St. Mary of the Lake School: St. Mary’s Engineering Mindstorms Project
St. Michael’s Lakeside School: Here Today, Gone Tomorrow: Saving Migratory Birds
St. Paul Preparatory: Robotics Continuation
St. Peter Catholic School: Toys and Space: Inventing Toys that can be used in Space Exploration
Southwest Minnesota Christian School: Injecting Color to Better Understand a Species and its Surroundings
Totino-Grace High School: E3 (Experiential Engineering Education) Engineering Institute
Academy of Holy Angels, Richfield
To make the most of our STEM Science program, we require resources to purchase simulators to bring home the concepts currently being taught in Physics, Chemistry and Math. We are using the mini-grant we received from MISF last year to train two of our teachers as STEM lead teachers who will disseminate their knowledge gained in the University of St. Thomas Engineering Certificate program to all members of the Science and Math departments. To move our STEM program forward we need better simulators that cover more of the physics and math concepts being taught.
We will use simulator devices to address the STEM process of problem solving where the instructor poses an engineering problem, and students collaborate to solve the problem by gathering data and testing solutions with the simulators. Each science and math instructor will develop a STEM based unit to be taught each trimester. This STEM based unit will serve as one of the Common Assessments for the course, and student mastery results will be carefully tracked and compared to the more traditional delivery system used previously for the same content. To move our STEM program forward we need better simulators that cover more of the physics and math concepts being taught.
Al-Amal School, Fridley
We will develop an engineering unit that will allow students to explore various types of engineers and engineered designs in their lives; engage in cross-curricular research to find examples of engineering in history and compare with today, plus complete a summative assessment that provides them with a local or global problem (e.g. lack of clean water) to solve using the engineering design process.
Using the 5E (Engage, Explore, Explain, Extend, and Evaluate) instructional model of scientific inquiry, we will first engage the students by asking them an essential question about engineering to introduce the topic. Subsequent lessons will allow them to further explore what engineering is, how it’s used in our daily lives (e.g. take a part an old computer (certain parts)), combined with explanations of engineering.
Further explanations will continue by inviting someone from the MN Society of Professional Engineers to speak to the class and conduct a relevant activity with them. During this phase, students will also receive instruction for their engineering history research paper that will have been preceded by a time line lesson on famous inventions.
The extension portion of the unit; will include a trip to The Works for further investigations and applications of the engineering design process, a tour of Medtronic to view products from biomedical engineers and the role of robotics in those designs. Another hands-on application would be for them to program simple robots to complete simple tasks. We will also introduce problem scenarios where engineers could use the design process to solve those problems. Because of our diverse student population, we will present local and international problems that need engineering solutions (e.g. designing a water filtration system for an area that does not have access to clean drinking water).
Annunciation School, Minneapolis
Seventh and eighth grade science and math teachers will use a software program named BrainPop to introduce and review curriculum topics of measurement, data analysis and graphing that specifically relate to the science fair projects. Students will also be able to access this software from home.
Annunciation School has a long history of science fair projects at the 7th and 8th grade level. Many students go on to the regional science fair and several have gone beyond that to the state level. Our 7th and 8th grade math and science teachers will use BrainPop software to increase students’ skills in math, lab work and in the experience of the science fair project.
BrainPOP is a web-based, multimedia learning tool that delivers instructional content using animation, graphics, audio, text, and interactive quizzes and games. By taking advantage of the brain’s multimodal processing capability, and capitalizing on the draw of animation, BrainPOP enhances student learning. The software is used in numerous ways in classrooms, from introducing a new lesson or topic to illustrating complex subject matter to reviewing before a test. Content is aligned to academic standards.
The teachers will use the interdisciplinary approach combining science and math in the specific areas of data analysis, graphing and measurement. In addition to test scores, increased skills will be observed in student lab work and in their science fair projects through the collection of data, measurement of data, analysis of experiment data, and interpretation of data.
Creating a Wildlife Habitat, Pond, and Outdoor Learning Center
Calvin Christian School, Edina
We will create a School Nature Center featuring a wildlife habitat and pond. In this space, K-8 students will engage in inquiry science projects supported by math and technology skills. The garden will give students the opportunity to conduct research, to work cooperatively, to take responsibility caring for the environment, and to share their experiences with the community.
We will create a wildlife habitat and pond as a place to encourage our students as citizen scientists and stewards of the environment. Students will follow the same protocols of scientists as they observe, experiment, and report on events in our schoolyard nature center. Key student outcomes include: engaging in inquiry science in the areas of soil and plant biology, understanding the relationship between organisms and the environment in aquatic and prairie ecosystems, identifying positive and negative impacts of humans on the environment, and developing the skills of phenology (the study and observation of seasons). Our students will develop leadership and cooperative learning skills as they plan, create, explore, and maintain our outdoor learning space. This will be a place for critical thinking, creative problem solving and hands-on learning through a curriculum integrating science with technology, math, and writing.
Central Minnesota Christian School, Prinsburg
Beginning in summer 2012 CMCS will begin a major building project in an effort to construct a new junior high and high school facility that will connect to the current elementary school. In the process the current playground equipment will be removed thus creating an opportunity and a need for our high school CAD students in consultation with a local architect to design and draw up plans according to code for the construction of a new playground. The students will also work with the county surveyor to learn the basics of surveying applied to the layout of our new playground. Our students will have the opportunity to combine classroom training on AutoCAD with the use of laser and digital surveying tools in the field.
Maranatha Christian Academy, Brooklyn Park
The 7th grade life science class will learn and observe the life and anatomy of worms. The class will cultivate a business out of worms and their by-product. The long-term goal of the vermicomposting project is to develop a sustainable and financially beneficial business.
The project begins with inquiry as students explore the “job” of worms. The students investigate the business opportunity as a result of the worms’ “job.”
The students will build the structures that the worms live in. This will provide an opportunity to investigate and experiment with different structures that will be best for our school’s needs. As we build our own structures we would allow students to build parts to the structure in teams. The students will be placed in a situation where problem solving, mathematics, and teamwork will be at the center of their learning.
Ultimately, this project would reflect STEM 2.0 standards, as this interdisciplinary project will incorporate science, engineering, technology, mathematics, and English.
Mayer Lutheran High School, Mayer
This project will engage students in a learning process that involves problem solving, hands-on learning, designing and creating solutions to real world problems using a CNC Router, Laser Cutter, 3d Printer, and a kit of electronics and microcontrollers. The tools are utilized in the fabrication of physical items crafted to specific designs created in a computer-based drafting process.
While programming and using CNC machines, students will work in groups of at least 2 to allow for cross-checking of work and thus minimizing costs in printing materials incorrectly. Working as a team collaboratively will allow for peer teaching and sharing of insights gained in the design and fabrication that would not be possible if working individually.
In the real world, engineers and scientists approach problem solving with a goal of optimizing a solution to a problem, as opposed to proving that a problem is solved. Through an integrated approach students learn to reflect on the process they take in problem solving and retain the knowledge and the skills they gain. Our goal and intent is to provide students the opportunity to construct new knowledge and problem-solving skills through the process of designing artifacts.
Minnehaha Academy, Minneapolis
Robotics is a great vehicle for cooperative learning in Science. In 9th grade, students will work in teams to collaboratively accomplish pre-defined engineering goals whose solutions depend on a working understanding of Physics concepts. We will also use robotics as a method of quantitatively investigating Physics relationships. Student teams will use inquiry to discover what quantities are measurable, what variables affect the values of those quantities and in what way. Because of the automated nature of these robots, and the availability of our own Vernier sensors as well as the sensors included with these robots, student teams will be able to ask their own questions and gather data involving motion, forces, energy and electricity. Student teams will be working cooperatively with these robots building understanding together. When specific goals are given to the teams, they will work and rework their robots based on the performance of their robots relative to clear objectives. As their robots inevitably stray from their intended performance, student teams will constantly hypothesize about why things are not working, suggest different ways to test a new solution, and evaluate the efficacy of their new designs. The challenges will also integrate scientific, technological, engineering and mathematical ways of thinking because of their direct connection to our Physics curriculum, the quantitative nature of the challenges, and the direct uses of robotics technology and engineering thinking.
Our upper level robotics course will facilitate these goals as well. The distinction, however, is that student teams will be working in a far more creative and interdependent way in the upper level course. Being a project-based course, student teams will be able to spend longer amounts of time on deeper, more engaging projects. The goal is for student teams to eventually be able to ask their own big questions and determine their own methods of answering those questions using the technology of robotics along with their previously learned Science and Mathematics. This will be the perfect environment for student teams to explore the interests they only received a taste of in their previous Science and Mathematics courses.
Minnesota Waldorf School, St. Paul
Students will become familiar with invasive species and their eradication. They will establish a specimen garden reflecting the Oak Barren plant community native to our area to be used in future Botanical studies. In this effort they will select native plants, prepare soil for planting, create a planting map, and plant a native garden.
Fundamental to the Waldorf approach to scientific investigation is a three-part process. Starting with careful observation and articulation of perceived phenomenon, teachers guide the students to create an accurate and detailed view of the subject of their investigation. Teachers, then, lead students in a Socratic method to draw out and order the salient features of their observations and to move towards conclusions that uncover general principles. This approach used both in the field and classroom will guide the children to a deeper understanding of the cycles of plant life, floral structures, plant communities, site characteristics, soil quality, species identification, microclimate areas, soil amendment, and site selection for native gardens and for location specific plants.
The project will provide a rich botanical study supported by both classroom and field experience. Students will be exposed to the chemistry of soils through soil analysis, testing, and improvement.
Our Lady of Peace Catholic School, Minneapolis
Students will use LEGO robotics to develop skills and explore the areas of research, innovation, design, critical thinking, problem solving, math and computer programming. They will then take what they learn in the classroom and use it to solve a real world problem. The real world problem will come from the FIRST LEGO League competition.
Throughout the whole unit students would use inquiry skills to design and implement strategies to solve their real world problem. Students would be working in small groups. Each student will take on specific roles within their group based on the individual student’s strengths, the group’s needs and each individual’s interests.
The STEM strategies are very nicely incorporated into the FIRST LEGO League’s competition. Although we may or may not officially compete, I would incorporate into the classroom all of the components of the competition program. The program gives students a real world problem to solve through the use of the scientific method along with research. Students will be asked to design a solution to a real world problem, have research to support their solution, and communicate with each other and experts to convey the results of their solutions. Through the design process they will be exposed to learning opportunities that demonstrate how the fields of science, technology, engineering and math are so closely connected.
Pilgrim Lutheran School, Minneapolis
Students will learn the art of time-lapse photography. They will view and study the process and then complete several time lapses of their own. Final work will be displayed in analog and digital format for the community to enjoy.
During the initial phase of the project during which students will be exploring the world of digital imaging, an in-depth study of the science of light and color and their properties will be necessary for students to understand the technology they will be using. A reflective activity will engage students in the nature of time and the consequences of “tweaking time” through the creation of time lapses. An investigation of the various components of a digital camera will provide students with an increased understanding of the construction of a modern digital imaging device. Many math skills will be emphasized in the process of understanding and capturing the actual time lapse. Frame rates, shutter speeds, exposure times, aperture values, resolution, and scale factors will give students many chances to practice math skills and see how they connect with the everyday world. Technology will be integrated in many ways in the project as well from the use of digital cameras to file management to exploring and utilizing software to create the time-lapse videos.
Inquiry will be incorporated throughout the project through the use of student hypothesis to guide instruction. Student will not simply be “informed” regarding the creative process of time-lapse photography, but will be asked to continually create hypothesis regarding how a particular result is achieved. As time and resources allow, students will be allowed to test and modify various hypotheses based on data and results.
Saint Jerome School, St. Paul
Students will “get out” and investigate and learn about different ecosystems in and near our campus and compare and contrast them using high and low tech equipment. Students will collect species and create an entomology display board in the school. Water, soil and air will be monitored to determine the effects on different species.
Students will be put into teams and develop a team name. The use of low and high tech instruments will be explained and time to explore how they are used will be allowed. Problem-solving techniques will be planned out as a group to be initiated as needed by each team. Teams will be required to first work with each other and then other groups before inquiring of the instructor. Instructor will visit each team as they work and provide open-ended questions to maintain student exploration.
Students will be taught how to use the instruments and each team member will be expected to lead, use all instruments, and record data for the team. They will be expected to work together and with other teams to determine the best approach to collecting data and doing their research. Students will also research and design collection units for insects. Materials will be provided for their designs, and they will compare and contrast their effectiveness.
Saint Rose of Lima Catholic School, Roseville
Our vision for Saint Rose of Lima Catholic School is an outdoor learning area that can accommodate students in grades Kindergarten through Eighth Grade, as well as our Church and community organizations. Saint Rose has a courtyard located between our school and parish center that has only been utilized sporadically by our teachers. We have an ideal space to allow our students the chance to learn about their environment through experiencing it first-hand.
As a result of implementing this outdoor learning space, we would like our students to gain hands-on experience with two major topic areas: weather and plants. To address the topic of weather, we will build a weather box outfitted with various digital and analog weather instruments. This weather box will be called the “Bentley Box” in honor of Wilson “Snowflake” Bentley, the first person to photograph a single snow crystal in 1885. Currently, our students primarily learn to use weather tools within our school walls. The Bentley Box creates an organized and secure space to house a variety of tools and gives students the opportunity to more accurately measure weather because these measurements will take place outdoors.
We will also be placing a Harvester Greenhouse in the courtyard. This greenhouse will allow us to broaden the scope of our existing curriculum and will allow the students to take their learning to a deeper, more comprehensive level. Instead of being limited by classroom counter space, the students will be able to engage in experiments in a more natural setting.
To strengthen our identity as a Catholic School Community, we will develop an adoration area. We currently have statues of Mary and St. Francis located in the courtyard, but we would like to create an area where these statues will be positioned among butterfly gardens with a versatile seating area to accommodate all ages. This space will help members of the Saint Rose community to appreciate the natural world around them and strengthen their connection with God's creation.
St. Croix Catholic School, Stillwater
Using VEX kits, students will create simple machines and tools that can solve everyday challenges elderly typically face, such as reaching for household items, opening jars, or buttoning and zipping clothing. We purposefully chose to focus this project around daily tasks youth take for granted, so that not only will they be building valuable STEM skills, but be awakened to the needs of those around them. It is our hope that this pilot project will be the start to many STEM initiatives that help guide tomorrow’s innovators to think not so much about “what I want to do, but rather how can I contribute to the world.”
Students will become aware that design is all around them and affects their everyday lives. They will learn that they can use the integrated tools of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) to manipulate one or more factors in order to affect the whole. In this Extending the Hands and Feet of Christ project, students will manipulate variables to make tasks easier, smoother, quicker, and simple possible for their elderly neighbors. Students will have access to VEX kits, elevating greatly the potential of their designs and the variables they have to work with. They will learn how to investigate, truly understand the problem at hand, dig deeper, ask more questions, and isolate and manipulate variables. They’ll be encouraged to continually reflect and refine projects – just as STEM professionals do in the real world. Curiosity will rule in SCCS classrooms!
Students will learn that there is no one right answer, but that there could be a better answer. They will develop critical thinking skills in order to quickly sift through and compartmentalize volumes of information. They will learn to work through repeated failures and even value those failures as knowledge gained.
They will develop an appreciation for and a strict discipline to the engineering design process: defining the problem; conducting research; brainstorming possible solutions; designing, testing, and evaluating best solutions; building a prototype; refining or re-designing; and building the solution.
The end result of the students’ work will be creating products, not just taking tests.
Saint John’s Preparatory School, Collegeville
This project is to “flip” two of our STEM classrooms by developing a method for delivering much of the initial information to students at home so that class time can be used for hands-on and cooperative learning opportunities.
Students will spend significantly more time working together in a flipped classroom when compared to a traditional classroom. Traditional classrooms require the teacher to deliver the information during class time. In flipped classrooms students will receive much of the information on their own time, at home when they are working alone in most instances. Class time is then used for small group discussion, partner labs or cumulative class projects.
In this type of setting we have the flexibility to turn a student’s question into an inquiry project for the entire class. If a student asks a question on a topic where there is any amount of uncertainty in the professional community or social implications we assign the students a research the topic. They would then need to ask questions, research answers, identify quality sources and present this information to the class. After the entire class has gathered and shared this information we would have a discussion to try and understand the different players and priorities involved with the relevant STEM topic.
St. Mary of the Lake School, White Bear Lake
The implementation of LEGO Education STEM based units will increase our ability to teach knowledge through doing. The LEGO Mindstorms robot unit will enable our students to develop creative problem solving in a team atmosphere. All of the potential outcomes support students in acquiring skills to be productive members of the 21st Century workforce.
The students in grades four through five will use the LEGO Education Simple and Motorized Mechanism kits to design, build and test a model of a motorized machine that can measure weather phenomena. The machine model will be used here on earth in environments too toxic for human work.
The middle school students in grades six through eight will use the LEGO Education NXT Engineering kits to design, build and test a model of a machine that could be used by NASA to explore the surface of a planet. The students will be responsible for researching current space exploration machines and then build an original that could be used to advance the current technology. This project will build upon the STARBASE curriculum that teaches students about the scientific principles behind space travel and planet exploration.
St. Michael’s Lakeside School, Duluth
In this project, we will access real data about migratory birds and use satellite images to analyze their habitats, and then come up with a conservation plan to protect the species from extinction.
This project encourages students to problem solve together, discover, explore, and requires students to actively engage the subject of helping protect migratory birds. More importantly, they will be finding and acting on a solution to help save a migratory bird species.
In order to protect migratory birds, it is important to identify and evaluate locations that are relevant to the birds: the breeding ground, stopover sites, and wintering grounds. The students will be teamed together. Each team will choose a migratory bird species. They will use real bird tracking data to explore questions for one bird species, and then use those answers to make a recommendation about which lands should be conserved in order to protect the species.
In addition to tracking birds, students will “adopt” and take care of an area that is important to bird migration close to our school. The students will pick up garbage at this site. They will also research plans for birdhouses that are appropriate for the area and the species that is being researched. Students will hang their birdhouses in this “adopted” area. Students will also bird watch and count migratory birds in the fall and spring in this “adopted” area.
St. Paul Preparatory, St. Paul
This sustainability Mini-Grant will allow our students to participate in another build season for the FIRST Robotics competition. During the build season they gain a variety of skills working with technology and designing their robot in all STEM subject areas. The value that students get out of this program exceeds any amount of money, but unfortunately, advanced robotics programs do not get cheaper as time proceeds.
St. Peter Catholic School, North St. Paul
This thematic unit — Toys and Space — incorporates inquiry-based FOSS kits for grades 3 and 4, with a real-world application of participation in the Inventor’s Fair, networking with other students and technology including Promethean Interactive white boards, a telescope and a new and up-to-date computer lab. The children will design and create toys, that can be used for research in space, and present them to other students.
We start with a field trip to Como School planetarium and plan a NASA Quest on Future Flight Design in the computer lab. Students explore with the six toys that were taken up into space with a shuttle mission and watch the DVD of that mission. Students will be invited to a “Night with the Stars” presented by Mike Lynch in North St. Paul. He brings his extremely large telescopes and conducts an evening lecture and presentation. We’ll teach lessons with the Sun, Moon and Stars; and Ideas and Innovations FOSS kits. We will invite 3M Science Wizards to the classrooms, requesting that they present: Innovation and Creativity and Toys in Space I and II.
We will facilitate the students’ generating questions about space, celestial bodies, space travel and toy design. Students will be guided to organize the questions into those that lend themselves to investigations that generate measureable results. Students will create toys that could be useful in space to further human exploration in space or using the nature of space exploration to test principles that toys display. They will test their toys to measure the usefulness of their toy.
Southwest Minnesota Christian School, Edgerton
Students will collect, mark, and recapture two species: crayfish and trout. Crayfish will also be reared in the classroom for study and trout scales will be further analyzed microscopically.
Assessing two river species is top priority. Emphasis will be on the collection and marking of two important stream indicators that will give a picture of the present condition of the river and set the stage for future work. Working together, students will begin by catching crayfish. Using seine nets and GPS documentation, students will collect, count, measure, weigh and classify crayfish from key points found living in the Redwood. The students will also mark all of the crayfish caught with the assistance of the DNR using visible implant elastomer tags and numeric codes. Students physically inject these tags and codes into each species. For crayfish, the injection will be in a very specific spot located on the tail. For trout, injection is directly behind the adipose tissue of the eye. Once marked and coded, half of the crayfish will be returned to the watershed. The other half will be taken back to the classroom. All of the crayfish will be involved in later studies as students compare/contrast growth and survival rates from among controlled groups (classroom) and those left in the river. In addition, river crayfish will be tracked to see how far they move within this ecosystem, river habitats they associate with, and survival rates. Using a special light source, crayfish can be “seen” in the water and easily recaptured for the purpose of testing. Students will make measurements comparing data with that of previous work. Since crayfish have an average life expectancy of 4 years and the ability to survive up to 10 years, they can be recaptured and released again and again. In addition, students will also be on the lookout for the invasive crayfish that is starting to make its way into Minnesota- the rusty crayfish.
Next, we will be collecting brown trout by shocking different stretches of the Redwood. As with the crayfish, trout will be measured, weighed, and marked. In addition, 3-5 scales will be removed from each fish. These scales will be taken back to the lab and “read” using a microscope to be used for further research on age distribution and growth history. Since fish growth depends mainly on food supply and water temperature, a fish’s scale can be used in a fashion similar to the counting of rings on a tree. With growth history evident in the scale, scales can be used to determine length at all ages up to the current ones, reveal overall health of the river system, give evidence of environmental stresses that may have taken place, and be an indicator of overall health of the fish population.
The data collected will then be used in the Petersen Method of mark, release, and recapture population survey as well as the Biotic Index for water quality, which rates the biological integrity of the river through the use of the Index of Biotic Integrity (IBI) rating system. The IBI, first developed by Dr. James Karr, is affected by three things: species richness, the dominance of one species, and the presence of certain indicator species like crayfish. Ultimately, the presence of a successful crayfish community is likely to support diverse communities of higher organisms, including fish populations like brown trout.
Rivers are dynamic and inevitably will change. River research through aquatic collection will present a quantitative and qualitative description of the river’s present and historical conditions. This is important to keep in mind because, as stated above, it is my goal that these assessments be part of a long-term project (year after year) that relies heavily on past data. The crayfish and brown trout will be continuously surveyed, interpreted, and monitored to see if the Redwood River’s fragile ecosystem will be able to maintain its crayfish and trout population over time.
Totino-Grace High School, Fridley
The E3 Engineering Institute is a new program that will intellectually engage and challenge students with a rigorous curriculum that includes course work focused on engineering, as well as exposure to the field of engineering through program components occurring outside of the classroom. The three-year program operates through a cohort model and culminates in a collaborative capstone project with a global perspective.
The key student outcome is for students to “Experience” Engineering. Students will gain a thorough understanding of the field of engineering through the engineering curriculum developed, but also unparalleled exposure to engineering through 1-on-1 communication with a mentor working in the engineering field, through an internship or field-experience, and through seminars and enrichment activities outside of the classroom. The rigorous college-prep curriculum already required of all students will contain an emphasis on math and science, and students will develop critical thinking, public speaking and collaborative project-based learning skills as they move through the Institute in a cohort model.
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