Students in Tracy Young’s fifth grade STEM class work on a ‘dog washer’ project.

by Dave Warner

Tracy Young’s fifth grade students are busy working on their next STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) project at Brenton Hall Academy and it’s all about water, conservation and filtration.

A common definition for STEM education is an interdisciplinary approach to learning where rigorous academic concepts are coupled with real-world lessons. Students apply science, technology, engineering, and mathematics in contexts that make connections between school, community, work, and the global enterprise. This enables the development of STEM literacy and with it the ability to compete in the new economy.

According to Young “Their grand challenge is to build a pet wash that uses only one bottle of water… 16.9 ounces. They have to wash their dog and then if the dog isn’t washed, they have to recycle the water using a water filtration system somehow to clean that dog.”

The previous lesson was to build a water tower from one city to another. “They had to build a tower that had the water travel for a whole yardstick away. Some of those projects were re-utilized for this project and some are completely different,” she said.

Some have filtration systems and some are just recycling the water that’s dirty. “They’ll have one more day to build as they’ve already had four days to work on this,” Young stated.

They class is made up of random groups of students and they have to use all recycled materials for the project.

Young said “They have to use the whole engineering design process. Start with a plan, figure out what materials to use, have a sketch, have it labeled, all in their notebooks. Then they have to follow that plan.”

The students also have to document any changes that they make to their original design.

Photo by Dave Warner - Students in Tracy Young's fifth grade STEM class work on a 'dog washer' project.

Photo by Dave Warner – Students in Tracy Young’s fifth grade STEM class work on a ‘dog washer’ project.