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Cambridge’s Benjamin Banneker Charter School holds STEAM fair

Kassmin Williams | 6/11/2014, 10:50 a.m.
Cambridge school holds science, technology, engineering, arts and math fair.
Students at the Banneker school are shown here working on 3-D architectural plans of houses for the project titled “Community powered by solar and wind” presented at the Banneker STEMS expo. (Benjamin Banneker Charter Public School)

Benjamin Banneker Charter Public School, a STEM school in Cambridge, reached beyond its science and technology core for its recent student expo.

The annual expo, held this week, became a “STEAMS” expo, integrating science, technology, engineering, art, math, and social studies for the first time.

“We wanted the students to be able to see the relevance of the areas that they’ve been learning in isolation when they are connected, and see how they can use their knowledge in the different subject areas to solve real world problems,” said Molander Etienne, chair of the Benjamin Banneker STEAMS expo.

The expo relied on community attendance to be successful, according to the school’s Executive Director Sherley Bretous.

It also gave students the opportunity to apply their learning to real life, to share their knowledge with the public and to learn how to interact with adults, she added.

The expo was a school-wide effort including all grade levels, teachers and specialists.

The theme for this year’s expo was sustainability, and classes from the school brought together their work to present.

Kindergarteners worked on a project with reusable material and learned about how to effectively recycle. First graders looked at natural and processed foods and led a presentation on selecting good groceries.

In a segment titled “Natural vs. Man-Made Materials,” the second grade classes showcased their efforts working with worm composts and presented on the worm-composting process.

The third grade classrooms developed eco-friendly cleaning products and the fourth graders created wind turbines.

Fifth graders worked with rain barrels and learned about water collection and the sixth grade classrooms studied insulation.

“We felt sustainability would be a very good theme to connect everybody around the subject areas because we want the students to be conscious and to be aware of the impact that we have on the environment so they can get empowered to do all they can to take care of the environment,” Etienne said.

Bretous said the expo gave students a unique chance to look more closely into topics.

Digging deeper into real life issues like sustainability and connecting them across subjects has heightened engagement among the students, giving them a voice and empowering them, Bretous said.

Through subject integration, the second grade class, who worked on the composting project in the school’s technology lab, were able to name the 20-plus types of worms, discuss the job of the earthworm, create composting illustrations and write about earthworms and the composting process, Bretous said.

“The reality of it is there’s so much for our students to cover,” Bretous said. “Giving us the opportunity to really slow down and delve deeper into the content is really what we want so students are able to take in the knowledge.”