Puyallup School District unveils STEM Showcase program

Academics: Categories encourage students to team up on invention, technology projects

of the HeraldJanuary 1, 2014 

Following many years of science fairs that have highlighted elementary student projects during the Spring Fair, the Puyallup School District has changed the name to the STEM Showcase.

The new design will emphasize science, technology and engineering and infusing math throughout, said Christine Maloney, a director of instructional leadership.

“We changed the name to STEM Showcase because we wanted to be more inclusive,” Maloney said.

Starting this year, students in elementary through 12th grades will be encouraged to enter projects in three categories: scientific practices, invention projects and technology projects.

The school district will hold an information night at 6:30 p.m. Jan. 7 in the Rogers High School commons to discuss the changes.

Maloney said a STEM Showcase coordinating group, led by Pope Elementary teacher Stephanie Haegele, will present information to parents that will include handouts that provide an overview of different projects and activities.

New will be an option for students to participate in group entries that can be in either judged or non-judged categories, Maloney said.

“I’m really hoping that, because we’re allowing group entries, that more students will participate, even if it’s exhibit only,” Maloney said.

“A lot of jobs that they get in the future will be team-oriented, so this is just another skill that they will learn and that we can provide through STEM Showcase.”

Haegele, who is in her second year at Pope, teaches in the school’s QUEST program. She came from the Federal Way School District, where she was part of the STEM Academy. She said her background in science, technology, engineering and math curriculum-based learning led her to head the STEM Showcase coordinating team at the Puyallup School District.

“Scientific practices will be one category,” Haegele said. “Students will be responsible for creating a science investigation and creating a presentation board.”

The invention and technology categories will be new, she said.

“The invention and scientific practices category have parallel structures,” Haegele said. “Both need organization presented. One difference with inventions is students will need to create a model or prototype.”

Maloney said the invention projects can be done by an individual or a group of up to eight students. It will be judged.

“This is where they will create something to solve a real-life problem,” Maloney said.

The technology projects will be a non-judged category and can be done individually or in a group. Haegele said it empowers a student or group to create something using technology, such as a PowerPoint slideshow, digital architectural design or animation.

Haegele said she’s excited for the group collaborative opportunity.

The STEM Showcase teaches 21st century skills, including solving real-world problems and presentation skills, she said.

Beyond next year, Haegele said the coordinating team plans to roll out other ideas for the STEM Showcase.

“We’re hoping to expand it and add more categories in the future,” she said. “There are some things on the back burner that we’d like to incorporate in subsequent years. We love our partnership with the fairgrounds.”

The Washington State Fairgrounds will supply first- , second and third-place ribbons for participating students.

“It’s a real cool thing for the community to come together, and we get to support the fairgrounds by being at the Fair,” Haegele said.

Each school in the district will be able to send 14 representatives to the showcase. Group entries will count as one, and that should allow for more student participation, Haegele said.

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