With the assistance of Westfield High School ninth graders in Mark Dargie’s history classes, preschoolers in the Fort Meadow Early Childhood Center went all in on STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) activities based on themes in children’s books they have been reading in class.
The project, called “It STEMs from a Story,” used stories from Massachusetts-based author and illustrator Jan Brett, with activities set up in stations that were run by the high schoolers. Brett stories that were referred to at the stations included “The Mitten,” “The Hat,” “Gingerbread Baby,” “The Three Snow Bears” and “The Snowy Nap.”
At the Snowy Shapes table, preschoolers were able to dig into “snow” made with baking soda and conditioner, using Play-Doh cutters and their hands to make different shapes.
“They can touch everything,” said Fort Meadow teacher Amy O’Meara, adding that the fake snow was cold to the touch. “It’s nice for them,” she said.
In Save the Gingerbread Baby, characters frozen in ice cubes were given to students, along with salt water and tweezers, to melt the ice and free them.
In a retelling of “The Mitten,” school system literacy coach Kelly O’Sullivan helped students to place felt animals in a warm and cozy mitten on a board. At another station, students built a house with magnetized tiles big enough for a gingerbread baby doll.
Polar bears were featured in another challenge, where they were placed one at a time on foam “ice floes,” counting with the preschoolers to see how many would fit without sinking the ice.
Pre-K to grade 4 STEM coach Lyndsey Ayers and O’Sullivan teamed up to create the activities, which they had also run at the Southampton Road Elementary School preschool a few weeks earlier, with the help of fourth graders in that school.
“The hands-on piece of the activity is really important, getting to experience the standards for science using their senses. The engagement with the author series brought it to another level,” Ayers said.
Dargie’s history students, who seemed to enjoy the activities as much as their new friends, have partnered before with the preschoolers during STEM week in the fall.
“When kids are excited, they learn a lot. It’s fun, but it’s learning,” Ayers said.
“We were excited to host another STEM Day here at Fort Meadow with the help of our STEM coaches, Lindsey Ayers and Kelly O’Sullivan,” said Fort Meadow Principal Jonathan Scagel. “Our preschool students had a fun day of playing and discovering.”