Coed, independent, PK3-12th grade school in St. Petersburg, Florida.

Drop Everything and STEAM in Fifth Grade

by Sandy Janack, Fifth Grade Social Studies Teacher
During Shorecrest fifth grade's annual Drop Everything and STEAM Week, students collaborated to solve science- and art-based challenges integrating science, technology, engineering, art and math. The activities were structured to mimic the work of STEAM professionals in the real world. 

The theme for the integrative week was Designing Kinetic Sculptures. Students learned about the engineering design process and each activity led students through the 8 steps of identifying, investigating, imagining, planning, creating, testing, improving and communicating. These steps helped students create various kinetic projects while using specified criteria and constraints. Students used recyclable materials in their kinetic projects. 
In one experience students learned about gears. They learned about what drives many kinetic sculptures and the ratios present while they explored gears that cause movement. The fifth graders created artistic sculptures using gears, meeting the criteria that two objects needed to interact as certain parts of the gears passed each other, like a soccer player on one gear “kicking” a soccer ball on the other. 
A simple machines activity focused first on how wheels, axles and levers interact to create motion and accomplish tasks. Students were challenged to create a transportation system that used a wheel and axle to successfully move a load of twelve dominoes 1 meter from the starting point, and employ a lever to dump the load.

Students also used the engineering design process to create flag-waver automata (that’s plural of automaton: a machine or robot designed to follow a precise sequence of instructions). They used pulleys, gears, dowels, clips, rubber bands, blocks and index cards. Teams devised a plan and created movable art that told a story. The students investigated that some forces may inhibit the motion of their automata and explored how to reduce these forces while challenged by friction. They engineered ways to reduce the friction such as adding wax to the dowel before inserting it into the plate. 

The final challenge was to replicate the inner construction of a “mystery tube.” Students were given a PVC pipe sealed at the ends, with strings on the outside that could be pulled to move beads. They used observations and imagination to form a hypothesis of what was going on inside the tube (without being able to look inside of it.) Students collaborated to create a prototype tube to test if their hypothesis was correct, making revisions along the way. Once each group had a working prototype, each student made their own mystery tube and added artistic touches to make their tube into a creative toy to baffle family and friends. 
Throughout the week, students reflected on their engineering design process strengths and areas in which they could improve. Recognizing that team members had strengths that complimented their own led students to become better collaborators. Students realized that teams were strongest and most successful when each team member identified and contributed their individual talents. Students celebrated these strengths at the close of each activity by giving shout-outs to team members for outstanding leadership, communication, collaboration and focus.  

The week culminated in a STEAM Showcase with families, at which students demonstrated and explained their kinetic sculptures. Students shared their successes, how they overcame challenges, and other information about each sculpture. Family members, even those that are engineers, were impressed by the knowledge students shared.

Thank you to the 12 Upper School STEAM Program students who joined in for an hour on 2 afternoons to help fifth graders problem solve and troubleshoot their projects. 

Cross-curricular, hands-on lessons like these stress all the great things about Shorecrest’s focus on project-based learning and have long-lasting educational effects. From critical thinking and collaboration to creativity, problem-solving, and personalized learning, STEAM Week is an exciting and meaningful challenge for fifth grade Chargers!

Find more fun photos here.

Shorecrest Preparatory School

5101 First Street Northeast
St Petersburg, FL 33703
Phone: (727) 522-2111  |  Fax: (727) 527-4191

Privacy Policy | Faculty

Shorecrest Preparatory School is a private, non-sectarian, coeducational, college preparatory day school for students preschool through high school, located in St. Petersburg, Florida.