Abigail Martin and Kitana Le-Garcia
Throughout the week of October 20th-25th, Canton High School hosted STEAM week allowing students to participate in many after school activities revolving around science, technology, engineering, art, and math. These activities featured a wide variety of challenges including weather balloon launchings, coding, an engineering challenge, origami, and math games. This week was not only filled with educational opportunities but a lot of fun for all who attended!
The STEAM week kicked off with a weather balloon activity on Monday. There, we learned about weather balloons and their applications. Scientists have been releasing balloons since 1885 to determine wind direction, altitude, and temperature. Although our weather balloons were used to gauge wind direction, the data will still be used in scientific weather projections that will be used in the Blue Hills Weather Observatory. The balloons were tagged with information about the project including a phone number to report found balloons. Balloons through schools are ordinarily found within a fifty-mile range of Blue hills, however, they have previously been found as far as Maine, New Hampshire, and Connecticut. When we interviewed a student, he replied, “I want this world to be ecologically sustainable." Learning about our climate and giving scientists a way to predict the weather, especially through weather patterns, is taking an ongoing step towards ecologically sustainable and a better understanding of our environment.
On Wednesday, Canton High School celebrated STEAM week by offering an engineering challenge. Participants were challenged to make the tallest tower possible that could hold the most weight. There were monetary restraints students had to keep in mind. With a prize of a ten-dollar Dunkin’ Donuts gift card up for grabs, participants hurriedly began to construct their towers. This activity supports students’ enthusiasm for engineering. As stated by a participant, “It gives students good problem-solving skills and [helps teach them how to] overcome obstacles.” This seemingly small challenge gave participants an appreciation of what it would be like to be an engineer, and could potentially encourage a STEAM profession one day. Another attendee stated, “I like how I can be creative with the design even though there are constraints to keep in mind.” The activity allowed students to understand how inventive engineers get to be in their field, as they got full reign over their design. Wednesday’s activity was a huge triumph and introduced many to the engineering profession.
The following day, the school offered an origami lesson. The class began with learning how to fold a box out of paper. We folded the small square piece of paper many ways crisply, slowly remodeling it into a box perfect for holding small items such as jewelry of spare change. Upon finishing, we got to try folding the same box with smaller pieces of paper, which became more difficult. While we were working, we considered the idea of replacing plastic take-out containers with these biodegradable paper ones. These containers could potentially keep a lot of plastic out of landfills. The instructor explained how this paper folding was similar to computer coding. Rushing the project or not neatly folding it wouldn’t result in a pleasing final product, just like in coding where one simple mistake would result in an entirely bad piece in code. After we finished our boxes, we got to try our hand at folding paper cranes. These were much more challenging, but they made the perfect decoration to hang up around the house. During this activity, we got the opportunity to discuss the class with some of its participants. One participant told us, “STEAM isn’t just about one subject, but how they all connect.” The arts fit into so many areas of STEAM because it can allow you to see your concepts visually in both 2D and 3D constructions. Another partaker explained that this project required patience saying, “If you can’t be careful with your craftsmanship, it won’t work. You need to follow the steps in order.” Many areas in the STEAM field require patience for you to get results. For instance, it might seem easier for you to take a shortcut on a math problem, and though it may be faster, you might not get an accurate answer. This experience allowed students to understand the value of craftsmanship, patience, and how to visually express their ideas through art.
The STEAM week was a tremendous success! Many students got to participate in a variety of activities they might otherwise not have participated in revolving around STEAM. These exercises sparked curiosity in a variety of subject areas, and possible future careers. Though all the activities were all important, they all revealed a different side of STEAM that you might not have otherwise seen in a classroom. As a society, we are always looking for ways to expand our knowledge of the universe and create new technologies to better understand our world. This small step can help us foster this curiosity for the new generation.