Students in the YMCA Academy middle school recently completed a mechanical system design project as part of their most recent unit in the school’s Science Technology Engineering Arts and Math (STEAM) program. During this project, students shared and extended each others’ ideas as they applied knowledge of simple machines to build complex mechanical systems. Along the way, they developed practical understanding of fluid properties that could be used to improve their designs through inquiry-based use of hydraulic and pneumatic systems. Instead of battle bots, students participating in online-only learning engineered their own mousetrap-powered cars, developing the same understanding and skills while completing these devices. In the end, each student engineered a unique machine, their own complex system designed for friendly competition.
Middle school students at the Academy have started 2021 learning about life sciences. Students learned about the qualities that we use to define what is living and explored how certain living things interact within ecosystems.
Since then, they have honed in on the basic unit of life, the cell! They investigated tissues using virtual microscopes and discovered variations between the structures found in plant and animal cells. Next, they demonstrated their learning by making cell models, using a legend and written descriptions to highlight functions and interactions between the structures making up these microscopic marvels.
Moving forward, they’ll continue to build on their understanding of cell processes and learn how cells can work together to form functioning tissues, organs and systems in multicellular organisms.
As part of the middle school’s new small group skill-based program, students made and played a game simulating a classic, where players battle at sea – no stacking your ships! Each student used Google Sheets to create their own digital game board, formatted cells to change colours when a ship is “hit”, then shared and played the game with a partner.
This was just one of the project-based learning activities in a week devoted to developing G Suite skills. Throughout the year, students will continue to rotate through this program every third week, each time developing different practical skills.
The start of this school year looks a little different than those that have past, but the Middle Schoolers at The YMCA Academy started the year by bridging the gap between in-school and online learning experiences with a community building activity. Whether in person or on the web, students shared the experience of painting pots and planting their own plant. Students learned how plants can benefit mental health and promote learning, and over the school year, they will continue to learn about and care for their green friends.
Learning at home means that students have lots of opportunities to learn more about the nutrition habits they and their families have. After learning about the big ideas from the new Canada Food Guide, how to use an Eat Well Plate to create and analyze healthy meals and researching nutritional information for specific foods, students demonstrated their learning by imagining that they were pitching a recommendation for a new food provided in the YMCA lunch room.
The products of this project ranged from posters, to slide shows and written reports; with one student even being featured in a corporate Instagram post on pizza-dough-making!