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Second-Grade Scientists Celebrate with STEM Challenge in Bedford Hills

BHES students work on ramp

Cereal boxes, tin foil, tongue depressors and more were spread out on the tables in Bedford Hills Elementary School’s cafeteria. Eager second graders fastened strips of masking tape to cardboard lunch trays, made precise cuts on paper plates and brainstormed aloud with each other and with family members. This was all a part of a second-grade science celebration during which Kathleen Herson, Jennifer Nordstrom and Colleen Sullivan’s classes took on a fun STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) challenge.

“Learning about the properties of matter is a highlight in second grade,” said Sullivan. “Students have learned how to be scientists and engineers by describing properties and testing objects for flexibility, hardness, absorbency and buoyancy. After these lessons and experiments, they were given their final challenge that integrates all they have learned.”

Prior to the celebration with their families, the teachers challenged their students to build sleds that could hold a toy bear. They were told that their challenge at the science celebration would be to create a ramp designed to transport the sled the greatest possible distance, but that the bear must stay on the sled the whole time. Each challenge required students to work with specific criteria, constraints and materials.

Working with partners or in pairs, students tackled the ramp-building challenge with enthusiasm.

“We don’t have the structural base!” one student yelled out to her teammates. “We need to work on that first.”

At another table, a student concentrated intently on using tape to stabilize the bottom of his group’s ramp.

“I knew that it would work like this!” Annabella yelled out to her friends after her bear’s successful slide down their slope.

“We added foil because we knew it would slide better,” Cruz said after his team’s triumph.

The teachers were thrilled with the students’ enthusiasm and attention to detail.

“This is the perfect activity because it engages the students in brain-busting work disguised as fun!” Sullivan said. “These science days demonstrate what the students have learned and how they can apply their knowledge to everyday challenges. The parents share in the discovery and are able to watch and help their children design and use their engineering skills to build the slope. Parents learn about the curriculum while engaging in it with their child.”

BHES team poses with ramp