WESTFIELD, NJ — The winners of McKinley Elementary School’s poster contest from its fifth annual Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math (STEAM) Night last month have been announced:

First Grade Winner:  Laila Mehmedovic

First  Grade Runner-Up:  Julia Thorburn

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Second Grade Winner:  Jane Glavin

Second Grade Runner-Up: Brody Ferguson

Third Grade Winner:  Eric Yang

Third Grade Runner-Up: Anthony Contreras

Fourth Grade Winner:  Brandon Smith

Fourth Grade Runner-Up:  Emmy Christansen

Fifth Grade Winner:  Gabriella Mercado

Fifth Grade Runner-Up:  Micaela Gensler-Canale

The theme of the poster contest was “Help Mother Nature Stay Healthy,” a tie-in to the environmental focus of this year’s STEAM Night. Winning posters will be hung throughout the school and in town of Westfield.

More than 360 students, parents and community members took part in the event Jan. 18, according to organizers. STEAM Night was sponsored by the PTO and offered at no cost to McKinley families. Through donations by parents, the event pays for itself each year.

“This was our first year incorporating a poster contest leading up to the our event,” STEAM Night organizer Valeri Sewald said. “Dan Black, a McKinley grandfather and Westfield resident for many years, did an amazing job helping to put the contest together. I was really impressed with creative ideas the students came up with to demonstrate helping Mother Nature through the posters.”

Mayor Shelley Brindle invited the winners and their families to the town's next Green Team meeting in March to share their ideas for helping the environment in Westfield. 

“I was impressed with her effort to help the students expand their horizons even further and give them an introduction into how the process works,” Sewald said.

This year’s STEAM Night offered record 26 stations for families attending, according to Sewald. 

“We are so grateful to everyone who volunteered their time to make this night a success,” she said. “We really had a great mix of McKinley parents and faculty running stations along with those in nearby community this year. The RVSA [Raritan Valley Sewerage Authority] came and demonstrated what happened to water once it leaves the house. We had at least five master gardeners presenting on various topics from rain gardens to seeds to tree IDing to the wonders of hydroponics. Dr. Bob Finn, a McKinley parent, ran an impressive station teaching children the power of chemistry — students were able to blow into a straw and see how the carbon dioxide in their breath changed the color of the liquid in the test tube. This type of hands on learning is why I love running this event. We require each station to have some hands-on learning incorporated into the station.

“The students are exposed to some very interesting concepts and able to learn in a very different way,” she added. “Who knows how many future scientists we inspire?”