LEHMAN TWP. — Try to build a Christmas tree out of 10 plastic cups, using only rubber bands, string and pom poms without touching the cups, rubber bands and pom poms.
The challenge was handed out to a group of 30 sixth-graders participating in the Lake-Lehman School District’s STEM Camp on Dec. 15.
“It is very doable, but you will need to be creative,” Heather Wertman, a teacher at Lehman-Jackson Elementary School told the students.
Tracy Stanley, from Ross Elementary, Alysia Jones, of Lake-Noxen, and Wertman broke up the group into smaller groups of three and handed out the supplies.
Students were given 15 minutes to develop a strategy to unstack the red cups and position them into a pyramid tree-like shape.
Sixth-graders Mark Kucewicz, of Lake-Noxen Elementary, Owen Davies, of Ross Elementary, and Cheyanna Snyder, of Lehman-Jackson Elementary, first thought they could use their feet or elbows to unstack and move the cups around.
A supervising teacher recommended the group rethink its approach.
Then, Mark, Owen and Cheyanna wrapped a piece of red yarn around the cup opening and used that to pick up and move the cups.
They had a plan of action.
At the end of the 15-minute period, the students re-stacked their cups and put the three pieces of yarn, rubber bands and pom poms inside.
The timer was reset.
When Stanley gave the signal, the timer and children started.
They had 10 minutes to initiate their strategy.
Mark, Owen and Cheyanna knocked their cups over and quickly picked up the yarn to try and stack their cups.
Meanwhile, a neighboring group comprised of Ashley Benyl and Bayne Raspen, both of Ross Elementary, and Brandan Blaine, of Lehman-Jackson Elementary, devised a different approach.
They tied their three pieces of string onto the rubber band without touching it.
Then, each member held onto a piece of string and simultaneously pulled to make the rubber band wide enough to fit over the cup.
They slowly released the tension on the string to make the rubber band close around the cup.
Together, they lifted the cup into place and again pulled their strings to release the cup.
Once the cups were stacked into a tree shape, teachers handed out clothespins for students to place pom poms on the edges of the cups to resembled tree ornaments.
Bayne, Brandan and Ashley were one of the few groups that accomplished the task. As a reward, they each received a small Rubiks Cube.
“I am surprised it came together,” Ashley said afterward.
Bayne came up with the idea to tie the strings to the rubber bands, Ashley and Brandan said.
Mark, Owen and Cheyanna were not as successful and did not complete the task in time.
The learning and fun were not over, though.
Students now could visit different stations to try their hand at coding robots, as well as math, science, art and language skills.
The Lake-Lehman School District rolled out the STEM Camp program nearly a year and a half ago, Wertman said.
The idea formed following a request by Superintendent James McGovern, who wanted a program to promote critical thinking and collaboration among the three elementary schools, Wertman said.
A grant from CCRES funded the STEM Camp as well as various professional development programs, Wertman said.
“The mission of CCRES is to ensure quality education and human service program for children, families and schools,” Wertman said in a written statement.
STEM Camp is an after-school program and is designed to fit into the district’s Act 80 days, which is a half-day, Wertman said.
“We have one Act 80 day a month,” Wertman said. “Each month, STEM Camp is held and focuses a different grade level.”
Students are given permission slips to take home for their parents to register them for STEM Camp. The camp runs from 12:30 to 2:45 p.m., she said.
“It is on a first-come/first-served basis,” Wertman said. “We only accept so many (students) from each school.”
STEM Camp student attendance is growing, she said.
Bayne, Brandan, Ashley, Cheyanna, Owen and Mark all gave the camp their stamp of approval.