Thank You Duke Energy and PEF for your Support!

Thank You Duke Energy and the Polk Education Foundation

Throughout this year our students explored different Science concepts in the STEM Lab. Many of the hands-on activities were made possible through a grant funded by Duke Energy and the Polk Education Foundation! Our students benefited from many new materials to enhance the lab activities in our STEM Lab. We are so thankful for their support!

In  4th grade, during our unit on Energy, our students participated in multiple labs to see different types of energy. The students used heat color changing Moon Dough during one lab to observe how heat travels from hot to cold objects. Students also explored the Sun’s energy using the Solar Hybrid Robot fish; the students were able to watch how it was moving around fast when the fish was in the sun, but once a cloud covered the sun, it slowed down or even slowed down stopped moving. Students explored wind energy by using wind-powered cardboard cars, where they would blow up balloons to see how the vehicles would move across the room when the air was let out of the balloon.


When our 4th graders moved into the Environmental education unit, we spent more time looking at renewable energy. The students used the Solar fish again during this unit. We also looked at how weathering and erosion affect our environment. Students worked with their teammates to observe what happens when the wind is blown in a given area over time, the students were able to see how the sand was moved, and then eventually, small buildings or trees can fall due to the lack of foundation from the sand moving. Then they created a model of an ocean where they observed waves moving sand and how that movement can cause erosion on the beachfront that can damage buildings and vegetation. The students used the same setup to create a river to observe how the river is always moving sentiments and things through the water. The students would also cause a flood on the riverbanks to see how the erosion could happen. When observing what happens with rain erosion, the students had two different activities, one where they used sugar cubes and created their own mountain/cliff where they would spray colored water to see how the water would travel through the sugar cube. Then over time, the buildings they placed on the top could begin to move due to the lack of foundation. The other rain erosion setup they had was creating a small sand mountain where they had buildings and trees. The student's used spray bottles to mimic the rain and could see how the soil moved from around the buildings and trees.


During our Environmental Science unit, we looked at rocks and minerals. The students created the three types of rocks in the STEM Lab using toaster ovens, silicone molds, silicone trivets, cooling racks, broken crayons, and small Starburst candy. The students used the candy to build sedimentary rocks to see how the layers of the rocks are created over time and pressure. Then for metamorphic rocks, the students used broken crayons with the toaster ovens. The students filled their molds, and then we heated the crayons in the toaster ovens, but not to the point of the crayons turning into liquid. The trivets and cooling racks were used after the molds were taken out of the oven. Then when we created igneous rocks, we set up the molds with broken crayons again, and this time when we put the molds into the ovens, we heated them to a liquid state. After that, we allowed the crayons to cool down. The students were able to see how each type of rock was made, and they took their examples home with them.


The 4th grade Environmental Science Unit culminated with a site-based teacher-led gem mining field trip. We partnered with Diamond Dell to purchase the rock/gem kits. Then all of the 4th grades rotated through the STEM Lab, and each student was able to mine for their gemstones. Students each took home a bag filled with gems and minerals. The students thoroughly enjoyed mining for the different objects.


In 5th grade, we used many of the materials in addition to items we already had in our STEM Lab. During their study of Energy, we used the Roll and Race boards with small soapbox cars. These ramps allowed us to see how different forces could cause the vehicles to slow down or not move as far. The students also weighted these cars down with fishing weights to see how the importance of the car affected the distance and speed it could travel. In another activity, the students used die-cast cars to see how the different types of energy causing movement could cause the vehicles to travel different distances. The students would start the cars moving with other objects (like their pencils, blowing air on them, and pushing them) to see how the different types of force changed the distance the cars traveled.


While exploring Energy Science, the students used the finger rockets, pump rockets, and stomp rockets to see how objects travel. The students worked through different stations to see how different forces caused the objects to move differently. For example, students saw how air could propel the rocket into the air using the stomp rockets. They used film canisters with anti-acids at another station to see how chemical energy could cause movement. The students enjoyed these stations, and it gave them a unique opportunity to see many types of energy and then observed how that energy moved objects.