STEMfest encourages exploration and wonder
Oley Valley Elementary School’s sixth annual STEMfest encouraged students to notice and wonder how things change in the world around them. Each year the event encourages students to direct their own learning through five days of explorations and challenges facilitated by teachers and volunteers. The 2022 STEMfest includes STEM Stops explorations, themed discoveries during Art, Health, L:EAP, Music, and Phys Ed classes, and a GooseChase challenge that encourages classrooms to resolve missions as a team. This year’s STEMfest opened on Tuesday, April 26 and runs through Wednesday, May 4.
Developed in 2017 to introduce STEM learning opportunities to young students, STEMfest has the dual impact of offsetting the anxiety of PSSA test sessions with interactive exhibits and fun activities to spark children’s curiosity and creativity. The event has evolved over the years to include master classes, model authentic technology-supported learning and provide a platform for learning collaborations.
Students are empowered to direct their learning during STEMfest, with teachers taking a more supportive facilitating role. Teachers and volunteers plan activities, gather materials and pose intriguing questions to spark student interest. Students work with partners to choose their own adventure and move among activities at their own pace. Facilitators resist the urge to explain stations and set expectations as students encounter deep learning and big concepts. This year’s explorations include laws of physics, environmental sustainability, biological structures, and the magnitude of the space. Volunteers continue to be fascinated by the fact that students in 5th grade and Kindergarten, and everything in between, explore the same exhibits and activities with amazement and are engaged with wonder throughout the festival. Students also consider their power to create change and how they can impact the world around them.