STEM-Tastic Start 2015

1st Day of School Excitement

We are headed into our 4th week of school tomorrow and Think Tank is off to a STEM-tastic start! From new programs to continuing partnerships, this year is shaping up to be one of the most exciting yet for our students.

As many of you know, due to space constraints, the Think Tank was moved to a much smaller space. Thanks to help from parent volunteers, a new storage shed, and a lot of organization… this year’s Think Tank space will again be a great place for students to explore

Take a look at the 5 day set- up in 7 seconds!

Now that the space is up and running, it has also become the new hub of thinking, problem-solving and collaboration.  Take a look at what your children have been doing in Think Tank so far this year, and get a glimpse of what’s to come. It’s going to be a GREAT year!

K-5: Knowing our Smarts


This year, all students in K-5 completed a “smarts page” the first week of school. Mutliple intelligences are valued and supported in Think Tank, and students worked to identify what their three strongest “smarts” were. They placed these on the cover pages of their journals. Grades 3-5 also made a bar graph showing the best smarts of the class. What wonderful diversity of strengths our students have!

Preschool and PreK
The base of all scientific and engineering work, is the ability to collaborate, problem-solve and ask questions and looking for patterns. For the first two months of school, our youngest students are working on just that.

Pattern making    

With a variety of materials to chose from ( Legos, gears, Keva blocks, pattern blocks, crayons and more) students are learning the mantra ” When we put our ideas together, our ideas get even better!”.

From one model to a collaborative model!  

“When we put our ideas together, our ideas get even better!”- 3yo students practicing collaboration

This coming week, all Preschool3 and Pre-K4 students will vote on what their first major study will be! Stay tuned to what they will chose!

Kindergarten and 1st Grade 


Rosie Revere Engineer has helped us kick off our year as ENGINEERS! ( Ms. Metzer, the para-professional in Ms. Wolfe’s K-1 split was a real engineer before a career change too!) In this great children’s book, Rosie learns to see failure as an important part of the engineer design process. Rosie kept an engineer journal made of “engineer paper” ( aka graph paper on the top, lines on the bottom) so the students have received their first “Engineer Journals” too!


Students use these journals to plan what they will make, record any observations and draw their models.  These journals will help them prepare for use of their Project Lead the Way Launch Logs coming up in the next unit! They will be exploring the Sun, Moon and Stars ( so will 5th grade by the way) so get ready for some night-time viewing with your children! ( More information on our Project Lead the Way program is below!)

2nd Grade

Observing the natural world and making close observations is a critical skill for budding STEM leaders. 2nd grade is halfway into their “Observe Everything” unit. Inspired by Science Friday’s Observe Everything challenge in 2014,  students are using various methods for exploring our outdoor classroom. This mini-unit allows students to look past the obvious first observations to notice small difference. Next week we will explore how macro photography can help us understand even more!


Please stop back in a few weeks to see their work and reflections on how photography helped them look more closely at the natural world.

Following this unit, we will jump into planting, pollinating and harvesting our Wisconsin Fast Plants! This unit will support the Engineering is Elementary Unit: Best of Bugs that students are completing their classrooms for a Cornerstone project!

3rd Grade:
 Somehow I’ve missed photographing our awesome 3rd graders so far this year! Perhaps we have been too engaged in getting ready to begin our Junior Beekeepers Program with DC Beekeepers! This quarter is all about plant and animal adaptations and survival. They are finishing up a 3 week unit on “discovering” their own animal in a specific environment and sharing with the world what adaptations it has to survive. We will finish the project this week so stay tuned for their discoveries!

4th Grade:

How does water, wind and ice shape the land? This is the question that has launched our first quarter Earth Science study. We kicked it off by inviting the DC Department of Energy and Environment to bring their stream table. Students are asked to plan river that slows the water and protects homes floods and landslides.


After planning, students head to the stream table and build their models…. and test them!

We plan to bring the stream table back at the end of our unit to see how student designs are impacted by their increased knowledge! Starting this week, students will jump into their first Project Lead the Way unit called “Changing Earth” too!

5th Grade:
The big buzz about 5th grade is that it’s their year to get to Space Camp! They will be working all year to raise enough funds to attend in June. Students wrapped up their personal behavior, academic and fundraising goals this week and are ready to shift gears. This week we will begin our first Project Lead the Way unit on the Sun, Moon and Stars!

What is Project Lead the Way: Launch??????

Project Lead the Way has long been known for their middle and high school programs, but last year they finished piloting their new K-5 curriculum called Launch! Maury is one of 8 schools in DC (and all of the East Coast) to implement this program! Thanks to a grant from Lockheed Martin to DC Public Schools, we get to put this program into action!

Every grade level K-5 will complete at least one unit this school year, with some grade-levels completing more. You can read more about each of the units here. 

You may notice some grade levels are completing units that PLTW notes are for another grade. If this is the case, the units and activities are modified depending on the grade level.

PLTW: Pushes and Pulls
PLTW: Ob. Sun, Moon and Stars
PLTW:Light and Sound
PLTW: Changing Earth
PLTW: Properties of Matter

PLTW: Animal Adaptations
PLTW: Forces and Interactions
PLTW: Changing Earth
LTW: Energy Collisions
PLTW: Energy Conversions
PLTW: Sun, Moon and Starts
PLTW: Automation and Robotics
PLTW: Automations and Robotics Challenge

But where is Engineering is Elementary?
Thanks to the new DC Cornerstone initiative, all grade levels will get to do an EiE unit this year… in their classrooms! I will support be supporting classrooms when they teach these. This means that students will get DOUBLE engineering curricula plus Think Tank!

In other Think Tank news…

Backstage at with Alice Bowman, Samantha Garcia, Mark Hofer and Kathleen Schwille 

 I recently was awarded the 2015 Educational Activities Board Pre University Educator Award by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) for ” developing the Think Tank program to inspire the next generation of engineers and scientists”. I will get to travel to New Brunswick, NJ in November to receive this and share your children’s wonderful work. 

I also was asked to be a panelist at The Washington Post’s “Balancing the Equation” event on September 10th. It is always a joy to share the work I am lucky enough to do with your children and gain support of elementary STEM education! A video of the panel, and the other panels, can be seen at .

Phew! I think that update covers most of the exciting happenings in Think Tank!  

Until next time thinkers!
-Mrs. Ford

Posted in Specials Posts, Think Tank.