U. City Schools Host STEMulating Expo
On Nov. 29, The School District of University City held its first, annual district-wide STEM EXPO (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) attracting nearly 400 people into the Brittany Woods Middle School gymnasium. As soon as visitors pulled onto the lot, they could tell that this was not your average school science fair.
The 25 ft., MySci air bus, an Investigation Station supported by Monsanto and Washington University in St. Louis, was parked out front and students filed through for an interactive discussion about insects. The rock star of the display was a foot-long centipede students were able to see and the braver ones could touch.
Inside, families and students of all ages, explored the 75 booths lining the gymnasium. In addition to the MySci exhibit, the lineup included a host of community initiatives and contributions from Ameren, Global Hack, Little Medical School, National Society of Black Engineers, STEMpact, Stormwater STL, St. Louis Science Center, The Green Center, U. City in Bloom, University City Public Library and more. Students participated in activities hosted by school LEGO Clubs, First LEGO League robotic clubs including Hydra Lions (middle school) and Robo-Lions (high school), Barnes & Noble along with District Project Lead the Way in the areas of engineering, biomedical and computer science along with many more.
According to Math and Science Curriculum Coordinator Beverly Velloff, teachers on all grade levels and representing each of the targeted disciplines, were a large part of the event’s success. “Our teaching teams pulled together an amazing array of activities that highlighted state-of-the-art, innovative and breakthrough teachings in STEM categories.”
“The aim of the EXPO was to bring together community and school partners in vertical exploration; prekindergarten through 12th grade students came together and were able to see what happens before, after and during their grade levels. They were also able to connect with community partners to see what potential is out there for real world exploration connected to STEM,” Velloff added.
“As a district, our interpretation is that STEM is not isolated,” Velloff said. “STEM is everywhere you look in the world around you, in problem-solving and personal discovery…rather than being isolated content that is taught to you or shown to you. STEM, through our district’s lens, is an integration of context, complex thinking, problem-solving and discovery. We really push for learning experiences that reinforce that mind set.”
Superintendent Sharonica Hardin-Bartley agreed, “I cannot be more pleased at the way our parents and community supported our first annual EXPO. It was the perfect opportunity for them to see, first hand, what their children are being taught and what is being learned in our schools.” She added, “Beverly and the teaching team did an amazing job of creating an air of excitement around STEM, which we hope will lead to more students choosing these career paths and, in particular, helping address the existing and predicted shortage of women in math and science.”
An added benefit, Velloff said, is that the EXPO gave teachers an “authentic community” in which to share information and receive feedback on project-based learning ideas, like the cardboard arcade games being created by Brittany Woods teacher Anne Cummings and her students. “I was excited by the interactions happening at the EXPO; everywhere you turned, there was energy around conversations and discussions of thinking and learning. There wasn’t one table where someone wasn’t engaged,” she said.
Already planning for the next annual event, Velloff noted she would do one thing differently next time around, “I wouldn’t place the slime table so close to the high school robotics team!”