Mettawee Community School Fifth Graders Reach for the Stars
For five straight Mondays, fifth graders from Mettawee Community School (MCS) arrived at their classroom to immediately board a bus to a new frontier at the Vermont Armed Forces Reserve Center in Rutland. Their mission: intensive training in physics, engineering, robotics, chemistry and mathematics through STARBASE, a federally funded project run by the state of Vermont, that encourages young boys and girls to dream about the possibilities of a career in science.
“We build on the knowledge that students have already learned in mathematics,” says STARBASE site coordinator Rebeca Steward. “We then use those skills as the foundation to explore more advanced concepts. We offer early exposure to the wide range of possibilities in real world of science. We launch dreams.”
A quick look at the STARBASE curriculum backs up Steward’s claim. There are sessions on chemistry that introduce the periodic table of elements and molecular structure; engineering projects to design a cost-effective container to protect an egg in a head-on crash; and an introduction to physics with the construction of two-stage rockets that are then launched into the sky before parachuting back to earth. As part of the work on these projects, students learn basic
But it’s not just the STARBASE lessons that work, it’s the way they are taught that makes the program a success. According to MCS fifth grade instructor Cindi Roberts, “The program is organized to move briskly … with instructors rotating through the classroom. I also love how the students work together in teams for the duration of the program, creating pride in their collective effort. After participating in STARBASE, I plan on using more student team projects in the future.”
On one day, the MCS teams programmed robotic vehicles to navigate from home to school, making multiple turns and stops across a miniature landscape by actively measuring, computing, discussing and inputting data. When the start button was finally pushed, the students waited expectantly and then clapped and cheered as each crucial move was made. As the vehicle safely reached its destination, a collective “Yes!” echoed throughout the auditorium.