Brown School students show off STEAM projects

The inaugural Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics (STEAM) fair at the Lucretia and James Brown School drew an impressive, shoulder-to-shoulder crowd on Thursday evening.

The atmosphere was filled with lively banter and laughter as families navigated through row after row of STEAM projects in the Baldwin Road school’s gymnasium.

Kindergartener Henry Norfleet, left, listens as Samantha Nelson and her son Alexander ask questions about his aeroponic garden during the inaugural STEAM fair on April 13 at the Brown School. CURRENT PHOTOS / NICOLE GOODHUE BOYD

“I love that they’re engaging in this type of experiential learning,” said Sarah Fox, the School Committee Chair, amid a happy frenzy of activity. “The children learn so much more.”

The STEAM fair, co-organized by the Brown School PTO and staff, welcomed participation from all students in the kindergarten through third-grade school.

“We want to encourage our students to be curious about the world around them and how things work,” said Brown School Principal Mary Maxfield. “The STEAM fair is a perfect opportunity for them to create experiments, test their ideas and share their learning.”

Maxfield’s call for participation received 200 entries, with projects ranging from a girl who concocted a sports drink formula to another who studied the osmosis of gummy bears.  

Second-graders James Jeon and Gideon Cohen-Mavros tested and compared the electrical output of a Granny Smith apple, a lemon and a large potato.

“We discovered that a potato has more electricity than a lemon,” said Cohen-Mavros. “However, the apple has even more electricity than both, due to its higher juice content.” The pair inserted small metal rods into the fruits and root vegetable and utilized a handheld meter to measure each item’s voltage output. Jeon noted, “An AAA battery has about the same amount of electricity as a potato.”

Second-graders Ryan Aniello, Henry Chamberlin and Teddy Sheehan explored the physics of catapults on a miniature scale. Using their mini-catapult, they launched ping pong balls, marbles and cotton balls to test their hypothesis.

“We learned about the different weights of objects and how they impact a catapult’s launching ability,” Sheehan said.  Prompted by their moms, the boys said in near unison: “It’s a simple machine that propels objects into the air and lifts things much easier.”

During the STEAM fair, the boys set up a series of targets — mini basketball hoops and circles — and invited attendees to strike them using their catapult. They gave out small keychain-sized prizes, so their booth proved to be a hit.

“Thirteen Brown School staff members volunteered their time to serve as judges tonight,” said Kate Schmeckpeper, co-president of the Brown School PTO. “They’re walking around in white lab coats, talking with students to learn about their projects and ideas.”

The STEAM projects not only educated children on the scientific method but also cultivated public speaking skills because they had to articulate their ideas and findings.  

“I’m so impressed with the skills they’re practicing with confidence, presenting and explaining their projects,” Schmeckpeper said. “That’s a deeper form of learning.”

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