By: Michael Welsh, Durham College Co-op Student
The STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) Olympics recently came to the Durham District School Board (DDSB) with 40 schools from across the district sending students to participate. STEM gives students the opportunity to solve problems across a wide field of subjects.
Schools sent teams of five students, representing grades 4-8, to the STEM Olympics where individual students were combined with students from other schools to do hands-on experiments and problem solve.
Lisa Cole, science program facilitator for the DDSB, organized the event and set the theme as Climate Change.
"We are trying to set the stage for the theme and students will solve problems that are integrated into the STEM subjects," says Cole. "The program is designed to not only to build content knowledge in various areas, but also to collaborate, problem solve, and to come up with creative solutions all with people they've never met before."
The STEM Olympic format allowed students to interact with kids of the same age from different schools. Bellwood P.S. science teacher, Kimberley Moore, is a big fan of her students meeting new people.
"I think it's absolutely great. Sometimes students have to figure out ways to work with people who are different than them," Moore says. "Usually in the classroom they gear towards their friends so this is a new challenge for them. They are building team working skills, which they can apply towards anything."
This is STEM's second school year being partnered with the DDSB. They hosted a similar Olympic-style event in previous years but it focused mostly on science. This year the whole STEM program was incorporated into the event.
"In the past the Science Olympics was where students come and have a lot of fun, they learn individually but that learning doesn't really go anywhere," says Cole. "I really felt this event is an opportunity to build leadership with our students and our teachers."
The teams were built equally of boys and girls. This was a welcome sight for grade seven student, Allie K., of Quaker Village P.S. Allie was at a Future City event last year and says there were many more boys than girls.
"I'm glad there's an equal number here because as we get older there will be an equal number going into careers in science," Allie says.
The STEM Olympics was at capacity for students this year. Registration was cut off to ensure students had a successful session. "It's a good problem to have. It's better than having a party and nobody shows up," Cole joked.
STEM hopes to continue to grow in DDSB schools and have a positive impact on students' learning.