Students dive into science with new STEAM program

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Four inventors show off their creations

A hands-on new program — designed to hook young students on science — is celebrating a successful start.

The Elementary Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math (STEAM) Residency Program launched back in October 2018. For five consecutive days, a group of Grade 8 students from St. Patrick’s Intermediate School visited the Canadian Science and Technology Museum in Ottawa. As program participants, the students were challenged to explore new ways to think and create using modern technology and scientific principles. 

A group of 13 students gather around a table. They are discussing ideas and planning the projects. Some speak, some draw, and some do research on laptops

Research is done. Ideas are generated. Problems are solved. 

“(The goal is) to create an opportunity for students to get more involved in science.” 

“(The goal is) to create an opportunity for students to get more involved in science,” says Jonathan Jerome, who coordinates the program on behalf of Ingenium – Canada’s Museums of Science and Innovation. He adds that he loves seeing what the students can create when they are given the right tools and opportunities.

Jerome receives guidance from The Ministry of Education when choosing the schools and classes to go on these week-long field trips. Since 2018, the Elementary STEAM Residency Program has flourished and grown. To date, eight schools have participated in the program; this number would have been even higher if not for the COVID-related school and museum closures.

Looking back, Jerome says his time spent with the students were his favourite aspect of delivering the program.

Four boys show off their inventions to museum guest. They have invented wristbands to help people move through airports. Two boys model their prototypes, which are made from cardboard and circuitry.

One of the best moments of the week is when the students get to show their inventions to museum visitors.

“It’s so much fun and it’s always surprising; I start the week not knowing what I’m going to see from the students,” says Jerome. “I know a little bit about who they are and what their interests are, and it’s really exciting to watch them. Once they finally agree on a topic and start sketching it out, planning, and getting excited about it, it’s fun to watch them overcome challenges and solve problems.” 

Tim Graitson, a teacher at St. Gabriel School, participated in the program with his Grade 6 class. Graitson praised the program, adding that both he and his students benefited from the experience. 

“I love this program and I really enjoy how Jonathan Jerome teaches the class; he is open to ideas and directs (and) challenges the students.” says Graitson.  

At the museum, students are permitted and encouraged to use tools they aren’t accustomed to having at their disposal, such as a laser cutter. Giovanni Giorgio, Giulia Salvin, and Jonny Guercio — Grade 7 students from Frank Ryan Catholic Intermediate School — had the chance to participate in the program with their science and religion teacher, Janette Perron.  
“Personally, I like the subject science and it’s fun,” says Salvin. “Sometimes in class we get to do experiments and stuff and at the same time it’s educational.” 

Throughout the week, students are challenged to build their skills as they work towards an end project. Working in groups of three or four — depending on the overall size of the class — students create a prototype of something that would benefit society. 

Three girls program the circuits for their invention. A variety of computer and circuitry gear is arranged in front of them.

At the museum, students are permitted and encouraged to use tools they aren’t accustomed to having at their disposal.

Giorgio and Guercio were in a group together, and decided to build something using technology. Instead of building something physical, they decided to make an app that would help you keep track of the trash that you were throwing out. The user could earn money back depending on how much — or how little — trash was disposed. 
“For example, (for) every can from canned food — depending on the size — you would get about ten cents, and if it was bigger it would be about 25 to 30 cents,” says Giorgio. 

Salvin’s group created a device that would hook up your laptop or another device to a bike. In order for your device to charge, you would have to pedal. This way, physical activity would be encouraged since most people depend on technology in their everyday lives. She also came up with a way to use a light to gauge whether or not you are pedaling hard enough. 

At the end of the week, the students had the opportunity to showcase their projects to museum visitors and talk about what they created.

5 boys show off their invention to museum visitors. In front of them are a computer and a cardboard box with several attachments and wires coming out

Five students show off their amazing invention to a crowd. 

“They [program organizers] made it fun because not only were you working the whole time, but you also got to go outside or see the museum; I think most of the people liked going to see the museum as well,” says Guercio. 

With the sudden closure of schools and museums in March 2020, the Elementary STEAM Residency Program paused operations. Currently, staff are assessing how they might restart the program in the future, using a format that protects the health and safety of all involved. 

For more information, visit the STEAM Residency Program

A cardboard box with wheels and grey solar panels above is shown, along with two cylinder hydraulic system.

The inventions of many students are amazing, and this one is no exception. The design and layout is exactly what students are capable of doing in the right circumstances, and Elementary STEAM Residency Program hopes to bring that out of every student they have. 

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Bradley Legault

Bradley Legault is an English Writer/Editor who is currently interning from Algonquin College to create for Ingenium. His crafty wordplay and simple tone paints a picture in readers minds to bring the wonderful nature of museum history and science and technology to life.