Fernbrook Students Inspired at Summer STEAM Program

Credits: Allison Freeman
Credits: Allison Freeman
Credits: Allison Freeman
Credits: Allison Freeman

RANDOLPH, NJ- More than 100 rising third to fifth grade students at Fernbook Elementary School in Randolph spent three weeks engaged in creative problem solving and learning about engineering, environmental science, computer technology, art technology and performing arts activities through the Summer STEAM Program.

Students selected the discipline they were most interested in and studied it July 24-August 10 in a special morning summer program at the school. This was the fourth year and largest year of the program at Fernbrook, which increased by 10 students.

Fernbook Teacher Jenise Janulis, the lead teacher and program director for STEAM, worked together with Fernbrook Media Specialist Michele Savvides to create the program. This summer was an exciting one for students who created a stop motion animation video, built robots outs of Legos, designed and constructed an irrigation system for the Outdoor Education Center, investigated the best growing environments for plants in the school garden and performed an educational show about bees.

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 “The vision was for a program that was academic in nature but exciting and hands-on where students could deeply explore a subject of interest,” Mrs. Janulis said. “Every year each class has a new focus and uses the latest technology for students to research and learn. Essential skills of reading, writing and math are developed as students delve deep into their personal choice learning area. The Next Generation Science Standards are addressed and female students who traditionally have lagged in the technical fields are encouraged to become engaged in the camp that uses technology in all disciplines.”

The program culminated with a special open house celebration for parents which included presentations, a show and a glimpse into everything the students learned.  

Students showcased engineering projects, shared water flavored with the mint they grew as well as tastings of the squash they grew in their garden. Students in the performing arts group used creative ideas and talents to teach their families about bees through an educational play where they created the script, settings, costumes and props. The computer technology group learned to use Tinkercad to design fidget spinners while engineering design students talked about their research into different kinds of irrigation systems and environmental science students learned to make educated predictions by collecting data and analyzing the results and built a planting tower, a viable new method of growing multiple plants in a small space.

“It was an awesome experience witnessing the student campers, counselors and teachers “all evolve” through this program as they applied their creativity and critical thinking skills,” Mrs. Janulis said.

Parent Theresa Fogel said the program inspires students and exposes them to technology and science. “It integrates science into what they are learning and makes it real and relevant,” she said.

Her daughter Maddie, a Fernbrook third grader, said she was excited to learn computer programming and 3D printing.

Fernbrook fourth grader Daniel Asaro said the program was very educational. “I learned so much about bees including that there can be multiple queen bees in one hive.”

Fernbrook Principal Dr. Michelle Telischak said the school’s Summer STEAM program is a highlight of the summer. “Our students have learned about various topics related to science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics,” she said. “I am so impressed with all of the amazing products our students created. It is wonderful to see all of our families here because the school-home connection is so important.”

The camp was staffed by 10 certified Randolph teachers and paraprofessionals, 25 Randolph High School and Middle School student volunteers and a college student, a Randolph High School graduate.

The program, which was funded by the Randolph Education Foundation in the summer of 2014, received Title 1 funding this year. All of the participating students attend Fernbrook Elementary School.

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