Connectivity holds its own powerful lessons for students of all ages.
None of the elements of Science, Technology, Engineering or Mathematics (STEM) education exists in a vacuum, nor does the study of the arts. All of these disciplines relate to each other, and studying one of these subjects could hold the keys for understanding another.
"So much of what we learn is intertwined," said Ryan Remien, STEM and Innovation teacher at Red Hawk Ridge Elementary School. Remien was on hand to help kick off the Third Annual STEAM-A-Palooza event held Nov. 11 at Grandview High School, a community celebration rooted in an inclusive approach to education. "We're interested in finding different ways to combine disciplines."
As in past years, the 2017 STEAM-A-Palooza event invited students, staff and community members from across the district to fuse STEM and the arts, to view traditionally separate fields of study as part of a larger whole. On a sunny Saturday morning, Grandview opened its doors to welcome a diverse array of projects, demonstrations and activities.
"We wanted to find a way to bring our community together on a Saturday," Remien said, speaking to the roots of the event. "We wanted to offer an opportunity for all of the students, educators and community members to come together to celebrate STEAM."
Thanks to constant financial support from the Cherry Creek Schools Foundation and other sponsors, that initial vision has become a concrete reality for the past three years. Every year, students from across the Cherry Creek School District meet in the Grandview hallways to take part in interactive displays, immersive experiments and inspiring displays of creativity. They haven't been alone – for the past three years, STEAM-A-Palooza has drawn parents, teachers and local dignitaries. Meteorologists and school board members have taken part in the STEAM-based activities along with elementary, middle and high school students.
"This event allows our students to learn STEAM in everyday life situations," said CCSD Board of Education President Dave Willman. "It teaches them lessons from a broad spectrum of subjects."
Strolling down Grandview's hallways on Nov. 11, attendees had the chance to learn about marine biology from middle school students and advanced robotics from members of the Arapahoe County Bomb Squad. Students from Thunder Ridge Middle School's "Slithers" reptile club offered a first-hand lesson on zoology and biology, showing off the school's collection of pet snakes. The winners of the recent Cardboard Challenge displayed their winning projects, engineering feats built out of everyday materials, and young space enthusiasts from across the district offered a glimpse into the cosmos at the Astronomy Club outpost.
This year's event followed an opening-ceremony tradition first established at the premiere STEAM-A-Palooza event three years ago. Before filing into Grandview, a crowd gathered on Grandview's front lawn to watch as students and teachers released a massive weather balloon into the air. The near-space balloon held a micro science experiment designed and built by students – as it rose and eventually fell, the balloon would record important data that could then be used in a practical, real-world lesson.
Denver7 Meteorologist Stacey Donaldson was on hand to officiate the countdown to the launch, which represented a milestone for STEAM education in the Cherry Creek School District. The STEAM-A-Palooza launch was the hundredth weather balloon experiment in the district since 2013; the series of interactive, innovative experiments started at a select number of schools thanks to $6,000 in funding from the CCSF via Educator Initiative Grants (EIGs). Since then, the experiments have spread across the district and have become a critical educational tool.
The centennial launch added a special mood to this year's STEAM-A-Palooza, as did a tribute designed to acknowledge the Veteran's Day holiday. After a flag presentation ceremony by the Buckley Air Force Base Honor Guard, students supplemented the weather balloon launch by launching dozens of red, white and blue balloons, each carrying the name of veteran from the community.
"We wanted to honor our veterans from the community," Remien said. "We wanted to think of all of those who have served, we wanted to find a way to honor them."
It was a touch that rooted the celebration of science, technology, engineering, arts and math firmly in the community. The gathering was about more than curriculum, organizers said. For the past three years, STEAM-A-Palooza has been a way to bring together families, teachers and educators; it's been a way to celebrate the district's commitment to excellence among those who make that excellence possible.
"The Cherry Creek Schools Foundation is about building relationships in the community and building resources," said Jill Henden, Executive Director of the CCSF. "This is an opportunity to bring our entire community together, and we're happy to support that effort."