Ritenour Elementary Students Participate in First District STEM Olympics
Making skyscrapers with dry linguine, parachutes with wiffle balls, bridges out of straws and catapults with craft sticks are just a few of the challenges Ritenour elementary students are enjoying during STEM (Science-Technology-Engineering-Math) Olympics challenges throughout February.
More than 800 Ritenour students in kindergarten through fifth grade participated in five different challenges that were tailored to each grade level. Within each classroom, students worked in small groups to complete a challenge with a specific goal, materials and time frame, such as building the tallest skyscraper they could create with dry linguine noodles, mini marshmallows and a meter of masking tape in 40 minutes.
“With each challenge, our students had to collaboratively plan how they would complete the challenge, and recognize each other’s different strengths in the design and building process,” said Dr. Michael Dragoni, instructional facilitator who planned this year’s STEM Olympics. “They also had to problem solve and make adjustments to their design if it didn’t work the way they had hoped. The competitive element creates a different way for students to engage in STEM fields in hands-on activities.”
Hannah Fraley, an Iveland Elementary second-grade teacher whose students participated in the STEM Olympics challenges, said her students have grown as a community of learners during the competitions.
“The STEM Olympics have given my students wonderful opportunities to work as a team,” said Fraley. “They have learned how to communicate and make decisions together. It has been really great to see them working as a team, combining their creative ideas into such unique projects. The fun and engaging challenges allowed them to learn such valuable lessons about collaborating, problem solving and thinking critically.”
A winning STEM Olympics group from each class will compete in the final round of district challenges against students from other Ritenour elementary schools at the Ritenour STEAM Expo. The expo is set for 5:30-7 p.m. on Wednesday, March 6 at Ritenour High School.
The STEAM Expo also offers dozens of free interactive activities for families and children of all ages, preK-12, that highlight science, technology, engineering, arts and math. In addition to activities showcased by Ritenour teachers and students, STEAM hands-on activities will be offered by Maryville University, Boeing, Washington University’s MySci Program and the Magic House.