South Side students go full STEAM ahead

Published on Tuesday, 15 May 2018 21:12


BRISTOL - South Side Elementary School students learned about forecasting the weather, planning a party, the science involved in detective work, and more, at the second annual STEAM Fest Friday.

STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) is a popular theme in education, said Julia Darcy, a fifth-grade teacher. “Here at South Side we took it one step further, and added Art.”

Darcy was part of the committee that planned the event, along with Patricia Zadrozny, the library media assistant; art teacher Walter Lewandoski; and Maria Calabro, an instructional support teacher.

Students in kindergarten through second grade got a presentation by the Connecticut Science Center in the morning, while third- through fifth-graders rotated through a series of activities led by presenters including the Chippens Hill Middle School Robotics Team, TV meteorologist Dan Amarante, representatives of the New England Carousel Museum, Lake Compounce Theme Park and ESPN; School Resource Officer George Franek, and a group of advanced-placement chemistry students from Bristol Eastern High School.

In the afternoon, all students did a classroom activity. For instance, the fifth-graders worked on designing containers to keep an egg from breaking when dropped.

Darcy said next week the fire department will send a ladder truck to test how well the containers work.

Orlando Valle, a science teacher at Bristol Eastern, brought seven sophomore volunteers from AP Chemistry to South Side in the morning to work with the kids on an engineering project.

“You guys look like a pretty smart group,” he told the fourth-graders of Heather Lohr’s class. “I can see some creative thinkers here, and that’s what you’re going to need, ladies and gentlemen. We are going to give you a challenge. How many of you have ever seen a big ship, maybe a cruise ship? That big ship sometimes has cars and people and swimming pools, all sorts of things on it. So how is it able to float?”

“You’re going to get a piece of metal - aluminum foil. Your challenge is to create a boat that can hold as many pennies as possible. The pennies are like the passengers are on your boat and as soon as your boat starts to let water in, it’s done. Then we count up the pennies and the group that has the most is the winner,” he said.

Lohr separated the students into small groups and Valle explained that they needed to share ideas among each other to come up with a boat design. Then you build it to test your data, he said. “If it doesn’t work that well you say ‘if I did it again this is what I would change.’ That’s what science is all about. It’s never a failure, you just learn how to improve.”

High school students Rebecca Bender, Drew Dauphinee, Aiden Dyer, Kyle Rivera, Jessica Oakes, Ian Szymanski, and Alyssa Lavoie went around the room to help the younger children with their designs.

“This is a great collaboration of high school and elementary school,” Valle commented.

Vallee praised one group of students as they piled pennies onto their barge-shaped boat and figured out they needed to distribute the weight evenly. Rebecca Bender counted out the pennies as they were loaded on, counting faster as the boat sat lower and lower in the water filled bucket: “97, 98, 99, 400!”

The kids cheered and they managed to fit two more pennies before the little boat started to be swamped.

“Excellent job, guys. It’s awesome to see such young students creatively think and problem solve!” Valle said.

The high school students said the record so far that morning was 468 pennies, achieved by an earlier fourth-grade class whose boat design managed to beat the ones the fifth-graders came up with.

Susan Corica can be reached at 860-973-1802 or

Posted in The Bristol Press, Arts, Bristol on Tuesday, 15 May 2018 21:12. Updated: Tuesday, 15 May 2018 21:15.