District 87 STEM

January 29, 2018 Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Google+ STEM in Education

This summer, District 87 hosted a summer Star Wars STEM Camp for all elementary students throughout District 87.   During the week of August 7-11th, students were invited to attend a full day of engaging activities that merged science, technology, engineering, and math.  Almost 400 students attended this event!  Mandy White, Helen Brandon, and Kristi Sutter served as program coordinators; creating curriculum, obtaining technology/resources, and providing professional development to the staff. Cindy Helmers wrote multiple grants to ensure funding and access for all students to attend.

During the month of June, teachers participated in an intense and rigorous two-day training.  During STEM Camp training, teachers from D87 and teachers outside of our district focused on:  best practices and growth mindset, various STEM challenges, student engagement, Depth of Knowledge and questioning, rigor, how to read NGSS standards, Mystery Science, tech tools, STEM lesson planning, and utilizing a variety of STEM and other resources.  STEM lessons begin with a phenomenon and utilize cooperation from members of the group in order to solve it.   Teachers themselves were able to work through a variety of challenges during the training thus mirroring what students in our STEM camp would emulate.   One of the best parts of the professional development was the collaboration that took place.  There was representation from each District 87 school and these teachers were then able to take what they learned back to their home buildings and share with their colleagues. 

Sticking with the Star Wars theme, each grade level was presented with various challenges they were to accomplish throughout the week. They were given an assortment of tools to accomplish their missions and strengthen their learning: zspaces, sphero balls, escape boxes, 3D printers, coding caterpillars, makey-makey’s, make-a do kits, and more! Kindergarten students learned about motion and stability by designing an escape plan to save their trapped robot. First grade studied light and sound when they were challenged to create devices that used either light or sound to communicate with “lost” team members.  Second grade students’ skills were tested when they were called on to protect R2D2 by designing ships that could withstand heat water and sand; solidifying their understanding of property of matter.  Third grade classes learned about motion and stability when they were tasked to use magnets in order to collect scraps from a planet that was recently destroyed. Fourth graders worked to create an energy source for their planet by using solar, hydropower, and wind to create electric currents.  Finally, fifth grade students studied matter and its interactions when they were challenged to create a prototype that preserves their planet’s resources as they escape from a leaky atmosphere.  

At the end of the week, parents and staff were invited to attend the STEM Expo allowing students the stage to demonstrate their new skills and learning.  The Expo ended with a musical celebration led by Leah Crews; in which each grade level performed a STEM-related song or presentation.  We had an amazing week and look forward to next year!  May the force be with you!


D87 will be hosting STEM camp again this summer during the week of August 6-10.  Registration will begin for this summer opportunity will begin in early March.

In addition, STEM curriculum/instruction in the classroom has been implemented PK-12 with a variety of interactive, engaging problem-based activities and projects. All students in grade 4 participated in the STEM read event based on the book Flush, all grade 5 students participated in the Challenger expedition, students in grade 3 will participate in the STEM read event in May based on the I survived Katrina book.

D87 also revamped the Arts for Life curriculum at Bloomington Junior High school with a STEM emphasis and is currently piloting an coding course after school called the Computer Science Academy.  BJHS also recently again hosted a STEMposium in December for students, staff, and State Farm mentors, engaging students in interactive, hands-on STEM projects.

Bloomington High school has developed two Computer Science pathways, courses that should be taken to lead students to complete competencies required for careers or college opportunities in Computer Science.  The BHS Pathways Project has also been developed for the other 16 nationally recognized career pathways.

Through a continued partnership with State Farm, BHS Honors and AP Computer Science and AP Statistics students are working with highly-qualified industry mentors in their classes and on developing programs/projects as a part of the STEM Challenge Project.  One team from BHS will be chosen to showcase their STEM Challenge Project at the student showcase at Motorola Mobility in Chicago on April 26th.  Students also have had the opportunity to participate in various activities through on-site field trips to State Farm.