The Ethel Walker School in Simsbury recently hosted a fair showcasing its STEAM summer program. The program gives kids in pre-K through fifth grade from Hartford Public Schools an opportunity to develop skills in the fields of science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics.
Fransadda Metellus will soon be a fifth-grader at Achievement First Hartford Academy. The project she showed off at the fair was a game. Players stand five feet back and throw a paper ball at a target.
If you hit the target, the circuit board activates and displays a little design.
“The codeBit over here—w26 codeBit—you connect it to the laptop and you put these different pieces together so it actually can work,” Metellus said. “We used the laptop to make the designs show up.”
Metellus and her partner built the game as part of an assignment that teaches students that coding is a chain reaction. The chain reaction is taught to the kids in two different ways depending on age. If they’re younger, the kids learn the chain reaction through unplugged materials. If they are Metellus’ age, they get to do it with electronics.
As well as showing off her game, Metellus also got to walk around the gym to look at what other kids from other schools were doing. First graders enrolled in the Westminster School’s Horizons program taught Metellus about “The Three Billy-Goats Gruff.”
To execute their unplugged chain reaction, the students were tasked with bringing a fairy tale to life and do it by using STEAM principles. In the story, the goats try to cross a stream, but a big, ugly troll blocks their way. The Westminster kids created a bridge held together by velcro and on it were little goat figurines.
“They used pieces to stabilize the structure that they have and they put characters to formulate the story,” Metellus said.
Isabel Ceballos, the executive director of the Horizons program at Ethel Walker, said the fair promotes STEAM through a “learn to play” process.
“I think this is just a taste,” Ceballos said. “While the kids may not fully understand that they’re learning, they are, and this is probably the best way for children to learn.”
Ceballos said that most of the girls that join up are below grade level in their reading.
“We’re talking about kids who really need that intervention and -- specifically in the summer -- may not have opportunities to do something else, and experience some summer learning loss,” Ceballos said.
The goal of the program is to get students coding by high school. Ceballos said her Horizons program is the first all-girls one in the nation.