In education, STEM is an acronym for the disciplines of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. STEM combines the four subjects in an applied approach, considering real-world applications, so as to better equip students for their future careers. The pupils develop the skills, abilities and learning dispositions required for success.
Y5 became Polar Explorers on their STEM Day, selected to join an Antarctic expedition staying at the Halley VI research station. The children rotated around a series of five linked activities and challenges. The first focused on what items to take on the expedition, keeping within a tight budget. Explorers in the Polar regions work hard, and it is very cold, so the body burns significant energy which must be replaced by the food consumed. It was a challenge to ensure the correct calorific content whilst keeping low the carrying-weight of the food. In a separate session, the children studied the thermal insulation properties of various materials by observing the temperature change of water over time. A ‘Fair Test’ was performed by each group and a series of cooling curves produced. The children moved on to examine the forces acting on a ship: gravity and upthrust. Then, they investigated the effect of salt water on buoyancy using real eggs! The design of a ship is very much linked to its function and one activity looked into the effect of shape on how quickly plasticine falls through water. As predicted, the more streamlined the shape, the faster it fell. In the final session, the children were introduced to the concept of ‘ocean acidification’ and the pH scale as the measure of acidity. They used litmus paper to compare the pH of still and sparkling water, lemons, vinegar and soap and they studied the effect of vinegar on sea shells. The burning of greenhouse gases is increasing the acidity of our seas, resulting in damage to sea life and climate change. The session concluded with a sharing of ideas as to how we might help to protect our planet.
The whole day was incredibly exciting and the children had a very enjoyable experience. They have developed fundamental knowledge and skills with an appreciation and understanding of the critical importance of STEM subjects.