Wind Powered Rockets

Topic of Design Challenge: wind powered rockets
Essential Question/Problem being solved: Design and build a rocket that can be launched using wind energy.
Subjects involved: Science
Grade(s) involved: grade 2
Brief Description: After learning about they types of energy from first grade, the second graders were tasked with building a rocket that they could launch using wind energy. The students were given a rocket template to color as well as provided with two different types of straws and tape to use to construct their rockets. Many students began by taping straws to their rockets. After testing, they realized this was not a viable option. On the second attempt many students found a method that worked. They taped one straw to the rocket and inserted a smaller straw into that one. They used the second straw to apply the breath needed to force the second straw and the rocket upward. Other students took more time and made several adjustments to their design before they could get their rocket to launch. This challenge also reinforced the the Engineering Habit of Mind, resilience that was discussed earlier in the day, as well as provided the second graders an opportunity to practice the design cycle.


School-wide PBL

SJS is currently working on a school-wide PBL about our carbon footprint.  Grades 5, 2, and 1 are answering the question, “How can SJS reduce our energy consumption?”  Grades 4, 3, and kindergarten are answering the question, “How can SJS reduce our waste?” Grades 6, 7, and 8 are answering the question, “How can SJS increase our use of renewable energy?”  All groups began their work by completing a chart of things they know about the topic and what they will need to find out.  The charts helped focus their learning.  As progress is made individual classes are sharing what they have learned with other classes.  First grade, kindergarten, and second grade have all completed their parts of this project.  They have each made very informative videos they have presented to the school.

Genius Hour Update

The students in grade 3-8 are taking part in Genius Hour on flex days.  This is a time set aside for the students to work on a project they are passionate about or would like to learn more about.  We have recently moved into the research phase of this project.  It is wonderful to see so many students who are excited to learn more about their chosen topic.


Engineering Habits of Mind

The students have been practicing the Engineering Habits of Mind in their classrooms.  This week we began to look at what it means to be open-minded.  We began with a short presentation that explained what it means to be open-minded and how this idea relates to our work with STEM education and the design cycle.  In the classroom the students discussed open-mindedness further and participated in various activities to practice this.  Here is what some classes did.

Miss Rose read the book Chrysanthemum, by Kevin Henkes. They then we discussed how the characters in the story were closed-minded, and how they ended up being open-minded at the end of the book. The students also discussed how they can be closed-minded at school and what they can do to be more open- minded about things.

First Grade
The first graders listened to the story, The Dot, by Peter H. Reynolds. They then participated in an activity where they each were given a black dot and a white sheet of paper. They were to imagine what the dot could be and illustrated their idea. The students had to keep an open-mind and visualize what their classmates saw the dot as being, learning everyone can see something different when presented with the same information.

Seventh Grade
The seventh graders practiced using an open-mind when creating decorations for they classroom door. All the members of the class learned to listen to and consider other’s points of view.


Eighth Grade
The eighth graders watched clips from the Disney movie, Moana. They then discussed how some of the characters were closed-minded and others were open-minded.

Fifth Grade
The fifth graders participated in an activity where they were tasked with building a new settlement on a newly discovered planet. First, each fifth grader decided individually which of the skills listed they felt were important in the training of an astronaut to settle this planet. Then they worked with a partner and compared their decisions. An open-mind was needed as they discussed and justified their choices, until they both agreed. Next, the partners needed to choose how to spend their $50,000 budget for building their settlement. Again, the fifth graders needed to practice being open-minded so they could listen to and understand their partner’s points of view.


Spaghetti Challenge




Christmas Tree Challenge





SJS recently practice the Engineering Habit of Mind, collaboration.  Here are some of the activities our classes participated in.

Seventh Grade
The 7th grade collaboration activity actually involved a project in English class. The students read the play, “The Monsters are Due on Maple Street,” and were put into groups of 4. They had to create a new, peaceful ending to the story, write and memorize a script, and perform for the class.

After discussing collaboration, the students collaborated with their classmates to stack and then build a tower with plastic cups. The students could not touch the cups with their hands; they had to use a rubber band that had string tied to it to move the cups. They learned that they had to talk with their group and agree on when to pull the strings and where to put the cups. Kindergarten has also worked on collaboration by drawing one picture with a partner that could only have 1 Christmas tree, 2 snowmen, 5 snowflakes, 4 clouds, and snow on the ground. Before completing that project, they discussed how important it would be to make a plan before drawing and to make sure they agreed on what they would draw before they began.

Second Grade
The second graders did a project to decorate our door for the holidays. We split into three groups to make an idea and presented to these ideas to the class. The class then picked the best ideas from each group to go on our door.

Eighth Grade
For collaboration, the eighth graders had an add-on part to their ‘O Antiphon’ project. Each set of partners rewrote the lyrics to “O Christmas Tree” so that they reflected the seven Antiphons chanted in the seven days before Christmas Eve. The final portion of the project was for the entire class to collaborate on a single song using different lyrics written by each pair of partners.

First Grade
First grade worked in groups to add required elements to a Christmas tree. The groups decided who in each group would be best able to draw the items listed to embellish their group’s picture.

Build the Longest Paper Chain

stem1 stem2



This week SJS focused on the Engineering Habit of Mind, Curiosity.

For curiosity the teacher showed the students a clear container, paperclips, and turned the water on. The students had to think and share what they thought the teacher would do with those three things. After someone guessed what they would be doing, she filled the container up almost all the way with water, and the students made a predictions about how many paperclips it would take to make the water overflow. They then began putting paperclips in to test their theories. The class counted to over 400, and the water still did not overflow.

All Classes
All classes in grades kindergarten through 8th grade were given a box. The students were to use the Engineering Habit of Mind, curiosity, to drive their discovery of what was in the box. The second grade played Twenty Questions. Other classes used other techniques to discover the each box contained various puzzles. After guessing that


Genius Hour

I have begun to work with individual classes on flex days on something called Genius Hour.  This is a time where the students can work on their own projects based on their individual interests.  Other times we may spend time researching topics that the students have shown interest in in the classroom, but cannot develop fully due to time restrictions.  So far, most classes are in the brainstorming stage of this process.  Based on some of the topics that came up, I can’t wait to see how these ideas develop into projects!