A spotlight on STEM learning at Meneley Elementary

A Douglas High Leadership student helps elementary students create Google Slides for the first time. Photo by Vivian Michalik/Meneley Elementary School

A Douglas High Leadership student helps elementary students create Google Slides for the first time. Photo by Vivian Michalik/Meneley Elementary School


Students at Meneley Elementary School enjoyed two weeks of comprehensive Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics based learning during the month of September, with grades pre-K through 5 participating in a number of special activities and events.

Meneley’s Empower, Prepare, Inspire, Connect Instructional Learning Coach and STEM enthusiast Vivian Michalik said the school partnered with a number of non-profit organizations to help integrate STEM learning across the curriculum and introduce students to STEM education and career paths.

Each grade level selected their own “Picture-Perfect STEM” read-aloud lesson offered through the National Science Teacher Association (nsta.org). These lessons “embed reading-comprehension strategies that integrate the STEM subjects and English language arts through high-quality picture books,” and support students in understanding “how science, technology, engineering, and mathematics intersect in the real world.” Michalik said the lessons provide fiction and non-fiction book pairings and are excellent at connecting STEM learning to other subjects.

The Tahoe-Douglas Elks Lodge No. 2670 donated $1,200 to purchase STEM supplies that included consumables such as modeling clay and duct tape. These materials were put to use in the “creativity lab,” which gave students a hands-on opportunity to practice building models while working through a specific engineering design process. Tahoe-Douglas Elks Exalted Ruler Anne Marie Neacy also coordinated a number of volunteers from the lodge who were instrumental in supporting the students during their STEM-based learning activities.

Nevada Mining Association (nevadamining.org) representative Alex Walden led an activity with kindergarteners and second graders that used different beads to represent a variety of materials mined in Nevada. After mining the valuable materials from a bowl of mixed matter, students compiled data and wrote their findings in a report.

Third, fourth, and fifth grade students in music teacher Leslie Campbell’s classes used Makey Makey invention kits (makeymakey.com) to build pianos out of Play-Doh. Through the magic of conduction and after using block code to program the musical notes of “Mary had a Little Lamb” into their devices, students were able to play the tune on their Play-Doh instruments.

Fifth graders built balloon cars that used air to propel their vehicles forward. These builds helped children understand force and friction and their impacts on variables including speed and distance.

A representative from the Desert Research Institute (dri.edu) personally delivered VEX GO robotics kits from the DRI lending library to CCMES. Students worked with the construction kits to assemble robots, which they then programmed to run autonomously through block coding. The kits were broken back down for return to DRI. Michalik noted that DRI makes these kits available to other groups interested in borrowing them for educational purposes.

Envirolution (envirolution.org) Project Manager Laura Scarselli-Hendrix brought an energy bike to the school to demonstrate how kinetic energy can be created and transformed. By pedaling the bike, students built enough power to light LED, CFL, and incandescent light bulbs and got to compare the energy requirements for each. Students observed a kilowatt meter on the light board and learned that for the same amount of energy it takes to power an incandescent bulb, you can power 3 LEDs and part of a CFL. Michalik said this lesson in sustainability helped students understand the importance of using less power so that there’s more to share and the impact this can have on helping to avoid outages. The activity incorporated mathematical comparisons and included a social studies segment about the history of artificial light.

Sierra Nevada Journeys (sierranevadajourneys.org) took fourth and fifth grade students to Davis Creek for an up-close-and-personal exploration of water erosion. The field trip took place on a rainy day, and attendees were able to observe the effects of precipitation on the watershed first hand.

Douglas High School Leadership students helped integrate technology in the classroom by supporting younger students in navigating Google applications on their Chromebooks. They also provided peer support to fourth grade students in creating a learner profile to help each student understand and define the type of learner they are. Students used the EPIC acronym to outline how are they are empowered, prepared, inspired, and connected to their own learning.

Many elements came together to make this educational experience a positive and powerful one for students, and Michalik expressed her gratitude for the individuals and organizations that gave time and energy toward making the events so successful. Reflecting on the high levels of student engagement and learning that took place throughout the different activities, Michalik said, “We had such an amazing two weeks…the kids just had a great time.”

Winter coat giveaway

The FISH Ranchos Family Service Center hosts their winter coat giveaway on Thursday, October 6 from 3-6 p.m. All are welcome to stop by and pick up some free winter outerwear including coats, hats, scarves, and gloves.

Immunize Nevada will provide no-cost flu shots and COVID vaccines at the event, and Carson Valley Medical Center will host a hydration station. Complimentary hot dogs, chips, and drinks will be served.

FRFSC is located at 921 Mitch Drive in the Gardnerville Ranchos. Call 775-265-3474 for more information.

Amy Roby can be reached at ranchosroundup@hotmail.com.


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