The evening presented fun for the family while enlightening students and parents on changes in education.
Marshmallows, ping pong balls and plastic cups captivated the cafeteria of Berlin Community School last Wednesday.
The peculiar collection of oddities were part of the Berlin Borough School District’s greater initiative to implement science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics in its daily curriculum, sparking the idea for BCS’ first annual STEAM and Math Night.
As the world’s technological landscape perpetually changes, BCS teachers recognize the importance of keeping students ahead of the innovational curve.
“We want, more than anything, for our kids to be ready for college and be ready for future careers that are going to look a lot different than the careers when we were young,” said Kristin Groark, the district’s director of instructor. “We have to make sure our curriculum provides that for our kids, so they’re prepared for a different future than what we had.”
A chief component in this educational shift encompasses emerging math curriculums, particularly methods that are designed to satisfy PARCC assessment standards.
The evening kicked off with a presentation about GoMath!, which is an engaging and interactive approach to covering new state standards, according to the program’s website.
Using a PowerPoint, BCS teachers advised parents on how to help their children tackle alternative math skills. One tip encourages parents to avoid strategies they were once taught, but, rather, focus on the lessons students are practicing for homework.
“It’s not really new math. These strategies have been around forever, but many of us have been taught the standard algorithm or the standard way of solving these math problems,” fourth-grade teacher Andrea Scordo said.
Scordo says through approaches such as visualization techniques, students are gaining a deeper understanding of numbers under this curriculum.
Following the presentation, it was time for families to put their STEAM skills to the test, as participants were assigned a design challenge. Within 25 minutes, two teams at each lunch table had to construct a ski chair lift, utilizing the various random materials, that could safely transport a small object from the bottom of the “valley” to the top of the “mountain.”
“It’s a little ambitious,” Michael Ford, kindergarten to fifth-grade STEAM teacher and district technology coach, told parents. “But, seeing your children in the STEAM classroom, I promise you’re going to see something amazing on those tables.”
After Ford gave the green light, the evening’s dozens of participants swiftly concocted a plastic-cup structure, meticulously making sure it abided by the mathematic requirements.
Families said one of the largest challenges was making sure the marshmallow would not weigh down the string, which presented a problem while trying to create a 12-inch slope.
But one group, which included two families, approached the design from a logical standpoint — placing one cup on the floor and the other on the table.
“We just used a natural slope rather than having to spend the time making a slope,” BCS student Teddy Hansen said.
“The funniest part about it was working together,” added his partner, BCS student Bret Kehoe.
After participants wrapped up their ski lifts, Ford pitched yet another community challenge, but this one will require a month’s worth of brainstorming and building.
By Feb. 28, students must design an innovative outdoor space using household STEAM-related material, such as Legos and Play Doh. The space must encompass interactive learning stations that connect nature, science and encourage sensory play.
At the end of the event, attendees had the option to tour the school’s STEAM Lab or play Reflex Math, an online game-based program that helps students build fast and effortless recall of math facts.
“We’re moving in the right direction,” Ford said. “And we’re taking on this shift in education with full steam ahead.”