STEM Studies Community Health

02/14/2018
By: Todd Martin
Seventh-graders at the STEM Academy at Smith Middle School are working all semester on a project that begins with community health and reaches around the world.

Titled “Here’s to Your Health” or H2YH, the Project Based Learning activity started Feb. 2 with seventh-graders at Carl Levin Park in Harker Heights surveying residents, examining pond water and learning about composting.

In the end, teachers plan for students to present the multi-discipline findings in a culmination meant to resemble a world’s fair.

The community health project includes science, agriculture technology, history, English and math.

In their momentum-building start at the park, students surveyed residents about their community involvement, including volunteering, time spent outside, exercising and demographic information.

Working in small groups, students collected samples from the pond and measured temperature and pH to determine levels of acidity and presence of microorganisms.

They also learned from the director of the community garden and from a composting professional. Plans call for students to plant a garden at their new school.

“They will ask ‘what is health and recreation,’” teacher Katie Drake said. Students will dive into research to learn about recreation practices in a variety of countries, culminating in a fair.

Another aspect of the project will investigate industry practices, showing how oil production, for example, affects the health of people and the planet and how laws aim to protect the environment.

“We want students to see how the systems work together,” teacher Heather Raico said, explaining that the economy, health and technology are interdependent.

Agricultural practices such as gardening and composting will address technology and food production, teacher Walter Prater said. “They will have an engineering unit where they will see the machinery of it, how food is created genetically.”

Project Based Learning is a driving component of the Middle School STEM Academy in its first year in KISD. It is located at Smith Middle School, which opened at the beginning of the current school year.

Seventh-graders Katelyn Miller and Antius Herring said they like the continuous projects and the collaborative nature of their learning.

The learning time at the park mixed history, geology and architecture, as well as science and health, the students said.

Inspecting the garden and learning about composting tied into the life cycle and how long it takes for plants to grow, Miller said. “It helps us to be aware that we are the next generation. We want to know how to have a good healthy lifestyle with a lot of exercise.”

At the park, students collected data on their own fitness level recording pull-ups, curl-ups, body curls and laps around the park.

During a scavenger hunt, they found a variety of animals, trees, plants, seeds, rust, man-made materials, and evidence of expansion, drainage and historical memorial plaques.

“We like to actually be out there,” Miller said. “It’s really neat that we have teammates and learn to cooperate so we can prepare to be in that situation when we get older.”
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