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STEAM Expo showcases innovative learning

Art teacher Aaron Withum demonstrates the photo equipment purchased through a GEEF grant during the STEAM Expo. (Photo by Erin Plummer) (click for larger version)
May 31, 2017
The Gilford School District celebrated students' works in Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math during the third annual STEAM Expo.

On Wednesday night students and teachers in all three schools set up displays throughout Gilford High School and presented projects they had done using STEAM principles, including some new technology. In years past the expo focused on STEM, though recently put more focus on the arts.

"We're here tonight to showcase the work of educators and students in STEAM," said Curriculum and Assessment Director Steve Tucker.

Tucker said STEAM education is based in hands-on learning and inquiry. Students will ask a question and their findings in STEAM are guided by that question.

Tucker also talked about how STEAM education can translate into successful careers.

The event also celebrated the work done with micro grants provided by the Gilford Educational Endowment Foundation. Every year teachers apply for GEEF funding for an assortment of projects.

"As a former teacher and principal in this district, I get really excited when I see students and teachers coming together for these fun projects," said GEEF representative Sandy McGonagle.

The STEAM Expo featured eight different projects that received funding through GEEF.

One of the projects that received GEEF funding was an experiment on sound waves and how they can help students study. Fifth grade teacher Chris Parker put in place a program for students to listen to soothing music in study hall to allow them to self-regulate. The project received $220 to buy personal CD players. Students would listen to classical or jazz music to see how well it relaxed them and made them more open to learning. They did a chart to record their experiences.

"For most of them, it worked really well," Parker said. "Eighty-three percent said it benefited them a lot to use it."

Parker said he hopes to do this project again next year.

Middle school art teacher Aaron Withum applied for GEEF funding for photography equipment, including a camera, lights, tripod arm extender, and other equipment. The camera and equipment creates good quality photos of students' artwork. He also received video equipment that has been used to record numerous school events and performances.

"That's something we've been wanting to do year after year; build a record of the arts," Withum said.

Withum displayed the equipment at the STEAM Expo.

"It's great being able to showcase what the students and teachers are doing," Withum said.

Other projects that received GEEF awards included iPads for digital art, equipment including blood pressure cuffs for a psychological experiment, robotics equipment, data collection technology for science and biology, funding toward the first Lego League, and the Makerspace program for fourth graders.

A number of other projects were put on display throughout the high school.

In the hallway second grade teacher Rebecca Yerkes demonstrated the class' pollination project. She said students in the class were given the assignment to pretend they work for Ben & Jerry's and help farmers in Uganda hand pollinate orchids. The students designed their own pollinators based on research and experimenting on what was the most efficient design.

Yerkes said connecting this with a real life need enhanced the experience for students as well as the need to help others.

"They're not just building something, they're building something to help farmers work more efficiently in the real world," Yerkes said.

Students in the Aviation and Space Technology Class displayed projects they have worked on in class, including a rocket that goes 1,700 feet in the air that can hold an egg.

Tech Engineer teacher Dan Caron said the class follows the curriculum set up by the Civil Air Patrol. Students start the unit looking at aviation technology, then they study space flight.

Caron said the STEAM Expo is a great opportunity for parents to see what goes on in the school they might not know about otherwise.

"This is a great opportunity to get parents out and see what's going on," Caron said. "The technology is constantly changing. If you figure out a way you can use it that's great."

Caron said he sees technology as a tool and he tries to give students real life applications to work with.

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