Camden students design greenhouses, catapults

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Fourth-graders Caleb Forehand and Emma Narron show their creative greenhouse design used to determine the factors and various conditions that affect plant growth.

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From staff reports

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Fourth- and fifth-graders at Camden Intermediate School have been engaging in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math projects to discover the forces involved in the mechanics of catapults and how the design and conditions of a greenhouse influence plant growth.

"STEAM projects are an amazing way to scaffold many skills into one project," said STEM facilitator Melissa Harnly, commented, "The greatest thing for me was watching the students as they planned and carried out their investigations. Their excitement in the project created an atmosphere of comradery and cajoling that fueled their creativity and helped to develop more joyful learning in our classroom."

4th Grade: This project began with the idea that growing food and increasing food sources is an increasing global concern. The students learn the importance of good soil, sunlight to promote photosynthesis, and protecting seedlings and small plants from weather and pestilence through the use of a greenhouse. Additionally, using a controlled environment for temperature, water, sunlight (photosynthesis) were factors students considered while collecting their plant growth data and creating tables to show their results. The students wrote action research reports to explain the data gathering process, analyze, and draw conclusions.

5th Grade: Students begin the projects researching the subject of catapults. For example, using digital technology search engines, students discovered the history and use of the catapult and viewed instructional video's explaining how to construct a catapult using simple machines.

Once students learned the basics of the simple machines they developed their own catapult to launch projectiles and competed to see which catapult would project objects the farthest distance. Students wrote reports, collected data, and created tables to show their results. In addition, the students were constantly constructing explanations and tweaking their design.

Harnly noted, "Learning through STEAM is truly a process...in this class, the students are in an environment where their ideas and opinions are valued and their fear of failure is not a factor. My students can make mistakes without feeling ashamed or embarrassed (or critically judged by peers) and I have found this atmosphere increases their enjoyment and engagement significantly."