Physical, earth and life sciences make up the third grade science curriculum. Magnetism and electricity are the first areas taught. Students explore the classroom with magnets, looking for conductors and insulators. Teams work together to create simple electrical circuits that run a motor or light a light bulb.
Third graders then become junior geologists, learning the difference between a rock and a mineral as they observe a “mock rock,” then investigating the properties of some minerals through the scratch test for hardness, and the cold acid test for the presence of calcite. Third grade science comes to a conclusion with the study of the structures of plants and animals. Students examine different kinds of seeds from fruits and vegetables, use mini sprouters to watch seeds sprout, and observe plants as they go through all of their cycles in a classroom hydroponic garden. Animal structures are explored as crayfish and land snails inhabit the classroom. Careful scientific recording is also an important part of each activity.
STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) education is an important part of the All Saints’ curriculum. Of the twenty fastest growing career fields in the United States, fifteen of them require a STEM education. It is widely recognized that the United States needs to do a better job of preparing its students to be able to integrate skills and knowledge in these four fields, not only to prepare those who will end up working in a STEM-related career, but to prepare all of its students to grow into informed citizens, able to make wise decisions on the many public issues involving science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
All Saints’ math, science and technology teachers work together to insure that, at all grade levels, All Saints’ students “do STEM.” Presented with a problem to solve, students brainstorm in small groups, using their science, math, and technology skills, to design and engineer a solution to the problem. They test their design, and, if necessary, re-engineer it before presenting their solution to their classmates. Among the many STEM design challenges students undertake are roller coasters, spirometers to measure lung capacity, cardboard furniture to hold classmates, rain gauges, bird feeders, electrical circuits, bridges, and oil spill cleanup systems. In addition to the design challenges, students routinely integrate their math and technology skills into their regular science lessons.
STEM education is not only fun for students, but it also teaches them the importance and value of creativity, collaboration, flexibility, and communication, important traits for 21st century citizens.