Shaler Area partners with Alcosan to offer STEAM learning
Starting in early October, Marzolf and Jeffery primary schools students conducted hands-on science experiments to learn more about a chemical substance vital for all life forms — water.
The kindergarten students through third-graders completed the lessons as part of a partnership between Shaler Area's STEAM — science, technology, engineering, art and math — program and the Allegheny County Sanitary Authority.
Cari Kelm is the STEAM coordinator for both the district's Project Caboose, for kindergartners and first-graders, and Project ENGIN, for second- and third-graders.
She said that Alcosan Scholastic Services program representatives led age-appropriate workshops such as a sink or float experiment for kindergartners. They also learned about how Alcosan treats water.
“So they built water filtration stations using screens, cotton balls, sand and rocks and they kind of made a stratosphere of those. They made a layering effect of those four things and they poured water in that had potting soil and glitter in it, so the water was dirty and when they poured it through those layers the water filtered it out.”
Second-graders designed aluminum-foil boats that could carry specific amounts of weight.
Third-graders built watershed models to visualize how contaminants travel from the mountains to water sources. The students used plastic-wrap covered newspaper to construct the mountains and added rocks and topsoil. A showerhead-type device simulated rain falling on the model, collecting in what would be creeks, streams, ponds or lakes.
Alcosan provides the materials for all of the lessons through its Scholastic Outreach program, according to Kelm.
Kelm said the students, working in groups of four or five, used STEAM concepts, like creating and testing a design and following the scientific method.
“They loved it. You could just see there was so much joy on their faces,” said Kelm.
“They were learning so much. They were collaborating. They were totally engaged. And I think it also really piqued their interest in science and STEAM learning and creating things. I wanted them to realize that our school is connected underground through pipes to this Alcosan water treatment plant on the Ohio River, and so they saw pictures of them building and putting this pipeline down, just to get them thinking that they are a part of the world around them, too.”
Last year, Kelm invited Alcosan to hold a sink or swim lesson for first-graders at all of the primary schools. After receiving an overwhelmingly positive response from teachers and students, she invited the representatives to return.
Jeanne Clark, Alcosan communications director, said the Scholastic Outreach program aspires “to educate and inspire the kids and to bring STEAM programs to life for them. And we also, at each grade level, align with the Pennsylvania Academic Standards so that our programming is meshing with what's going on within the school and really enhances it. We hope students, teachers, parents become more familiar with Alcosan and we try to have some fun with the kids.”
Kelm is planning on having Alcosan representatives visit Burchfield and Rogers primary schools in the spring. Teachers may schedule additional lessons if they are interested.
Erica Cebzanov is a Tribune-Review contributor.