STEM for all is a common theme at Delran High School, however, when STEM Coordinators Erica DeMichele and Mary Jo Hutchinson bring together the community, students from K-5, folklore, current news and the fabrication lab, STEM can be taught at a different level.
On Wednesday, Dec. 4, Delran’s STEM coordinators and ambassadors held Light up the Winter Solstice. Students between K-5 were invited to the fabrication lab to make crafts, watch videos and read stories, all while learning what the winter solstice is.
“The fab lab is not just meant to be a space where people can make stuff,” said DeMichele. “It’s supposed to be a space where we can take our curriculum standards and make connections.”
“When we worked with Paul Reynolds, we saw the idea of taking a story and turning it into a creation. We thought we should do something around winter time that can help families get together and make something that they can keep, but still incorporate that digital technology at a low level,” said DeMichele.
Prior to working in the fabrication lab creating pomanders, string popcorn and pop-up cards, the students sat and watched a brief BrainPOP video which explained the science of the winter solstice. Hutchinson would later take the students on a journey through the history of the day by reading “The Shortest Day: Celebrating the Winter Solstice” by Wendy Pfeffer.
According to the book, long ago, people grew afraid when each day had fewer hours of sunshine than the day before. Many believed the gods were mad at them and, consequently, they had to give sacrifices and perform rituals. Over time, they realized one day each year the sun starts moving toward them again.
“The book we chose is one that we really like,” said DeMichele. “Looking at the science phenomenon of the shortest day fits perfectly because it’s festive yet there’s a whole reason why it happens as well as the folklore and traditions that humankind has done in the past. We really want the K-5 families to come in and see what (the fab lab) is ultimately supposed to be.”
By the end of the event, the students left with a better understanding of the winter solstice. The students took a small quiz including questions regarding the tilt of the Earth’s axis, weather patterns and the vernal equinox.
While Light up the Winter Solstice was a fun and festive event, the main point of the night was introducing students to the fab lab and, hopefully, sparking their interest.