NYA Lower School science lab story - credit Brian Beard - CIP

EXPLORING STEM @ NYA December 2019

Exploring STEM @ NYA is a resource for Lower and Middle School teachers, parents, and students. Here you can explore STEM offerings at NYA and learn about what’s happening in the Innovation Lab.

Students work on this month’s team challenge:  How quickly can a team of three people assemble fifty spring-loaded pens?

Students in forensics class learn to create an impression of a footprint. Special thanks to Officer Mike Peacock of the Yarmouth Police Department. 

Innovation Lab Activities

New activities are set up in the Innovation Lab, which students can access during recess now that the weather is pushing us indoors. In the Activity Corner, there are Geoboards available for either scripted activities or for creative play. This month’s team challenge is an assembly line challenge:  How quickly can a team of three people assemble fifty spring-loaded pens? Team members will work together to optimize the assembly process.

Bioscience day

On November 21, the Bioscience Association of Maine hosted Maine Bioscience Day. The organization connects industry partners in the field of bioscience to middle schools all around the state. Volunteer employees from these companies visit schools on this day and share with students their personal experiences of being in the bioscience field. NYA is paired with two excellent presenters who met with all of our Middle School students on November 12. Dan Gray, founder of Gray Optics, presented to fifth, sixth, and eighth graders about optical imaging equipment. His company designs and builds objects like medical scopes for different types of surgeries. Chuck Waterman (parent of Caleb Waterman ’22) of Abbott Diagnostics in Scarborough, presented to seventh graders about rapid diagnostic molecular-based testing for quick identification of the flu virus. Mr. Waterman offered to host students at his company as well, if we ever wanted to get an idea of what it would be like to work in his field.

The top in-demand jobs that barely existed 10 years ago are Digital Marketing, Cloud Specialist, Social Media Intern, Fintech Manager, IOS and Android Developer, Uber Driver, Data Scientist, Big Data Architect, Transformation Manager. – Orleans Marketing Group

Today’s Tip from NYA STEM educator, Terry Bartick:

In Bloom’s Taxonomy, creating is among the verbs in the highest level of understanding. Today’s tip is about encouraging our students to design and create a product that solves a problem or enhances our understanding of an issue. We can do this in all content areas. Students can then offer supporting evidence to justify the purpose or benefit of their creation.

– Animate a book cover to give additional insight to the story within. There are some great YouTube tutorials on different ways to do this that vary based on age and skill level.

– Create a map of an imaginary world, or create a map of a world that would have resulted if a major military conflict had turned out differently.

– Create a model that shows how climate change is correlated with economic development.

– Produce a quiz show. Students can devise, schedule, run, and evaluate their own classroom quiz.

– Invent an item for a historical figure or character in a novel and predict how it would impact the outcome [this is a favorite!]. A related one: What if there were smartphone apps available during key historical moments? How would that have changed history?

As you can see, these types of tasks inevitably combine skills from multiple content areas. If any of these sound intriguing, I can share what I know, and maybe there will be something of interest to try.

STEM Ideas with a Winter Theme:


Studying snowflakes is an easy entry point to introducing students to nanoscience, without them even knowing that is what they are doing. When the flakes start to fly, students can go outside with dark fabric or cardboard and a magnifying glass. How many different shapes can they find? Would you believe there are 35 types?? This link has many different activities about snowflakes that go from simple to complex.


Here are some templates for making geometric snowmen. No advanced math skills are required – you just cut, fold, and glue. Shhh…consider asking students to predict what the flat patterns are going to create, before telling them they will be snowmen! And, can they figure out how to make them if you give them no directions? And if some students create their snowmen faster than others, you can challenge the quicker students to design their own flat pattern to produce a different object (differentiation!).

Snowman head and hat
Snowman body

Despite the rapid growth of technology in the classroom, research shows only modest positive effects of technology on learning. – US Department of Education, 2016


Ellen Gagne’s fourth grade students worked hard with their strings teacher, Linda Vaillancourt, learning Baby Shark on their violins. In Christa Mecham’s art class, they created the adorable nuclear Shark family. In a marriage of music, art, and technology, the students performed their song in front of the green screen and used their models as props. The video is still in production, but here is a screenshot of the product.


North Yarmouth Academy is an independent, college preparatory, coeducational school for toddlers to students in grade twelve with an enrollment of over 360 students. Since 1814, NYA has fostered integrity, character, and intellect in its students. For more information, please contact NYA at 207-846-9051 or information@nya.org.