June 19, 2019

Prior Recipients of STEM Challenge Grants

2019 Spring Grant Recipients

Erica Green from BFA Fairfax – Bellows Free Academy Fairfax Elementary School and Library: Connecting STEAM Learning to the Community

Studies show that children’s consistent exposure to and practice of STEAM skills in K-5 education is essential to their lifelong success. We believe that creating opportunities for learning beyond the school day may strengthen children’s ability in STEAM areas and support their general interest in the arts and sciences. Therefore, we have designed STEAM Packs: backpacks containing integrated STEAM curricular materials across grades K-5 that children may borrow and bring home with them to use.

The STEM Challenge Grant will help fund nine STEAM Packs. Each STEAM Pack will be themed and will include the following materials associated to that theme:

• Books
• Hands-on activities
• Interactive challenges
• Instructions
• A pre- and post-project self-assessment rubric


Each theme correlates to a Next Generation Science Standard (NGSS) for each grade level, tying in cross-cutting concepts with developmentally appropriate activities for each age. The themes will connect to, but not repeat, curricular activities that are taught at each grade level during the school day. Examples of themes may be “Catapults and Crossbows,” “Light Waves,” and “Connections with Circuits.”

The STEAM Packs will be housed at the Bellows Free Academy Fairfax School Library, which also serves as the community public library. Children and caregivers will be able to borrow the backpacks as library materials. We will maintain the backpacks ourselves with weekly checks of STEAM Pack contents. We hope to grow this program to add backpacks for a variety of themes to provide our community with maximum benefit from this project.

Maisie Howard from Vermont Works for Women – Rosie’s Girls Swanton STEAM Camp

Vermont Works for Women’s Rosie’s Girls is a series of one week carpentry and welding summer day camps where middle school girls and gender non-conforming youth develop grit, connection, and expanded possibilities as they explore hands-on STEAM and trades-related activities. Rosie’s Girls camps started putting power tools in girls’ hands in 2000, empowering hundreds of middle school girls with drills, MIG welders, chop saws, and hammers to build objects such as tool boxes, tables, and Little Free Libraries. Beyond these hard skills, campers are able to develop important socioemotional skills in an environment free from judgement and social pressures typically faced by adolescent girls. Rosie’s Girls camp exposes them at a key developmental age to tools, role models, and transferable soft skills, while building confidence and self awareness that expands their thinking about careers and choices as they enter high school and beyond. VWW is in the process of expanding Rosie’s Girls to reach more adolescents during out-of-school time with this highly effective program. This summer, we are excited to launch the first Rosie’s Girls STEAM camp at Missisquoi Valley Union in Swanton, a new model that will aim to maximize assets and keeps costs down. This camp is unique in that it will allow campers to peek into a day in the life of a different STEAM professional each day with activities that include carving spoons with a wood worker, welding a creative project to life with a blacksmith, and using a chainsaw to cut logs with a forester.

Joanne Allen from Enosburg Elementary School Library – STEMGineering For Our Youngest Learners

My educational initiative is to be inclusive for my youngest learners to practice the learning cycle to imagine, create, play, share, and reflect. The goal of this Encouraging Early STEMgineers Project is to empower our youngest learners by offering them involvement with various reusable materials to practice science, technology, engineering, and math skills. In doing so, the following skills are encouraged:

  • develop social development by working together
  • promote importance of teamwork and collaboration
  • support, enhance, and inspire imagination and cultivate creative thinking
  • math skills: practice spatial reasoning by using geometric shapes to build; learn shape recognition and spatial three-dimensional thinking ability
  • encourage brain development and critical thinking
  • strengthen dexterity: develop hand-eye coordination and master fine motor skills
  • improve logical thinking
  • boost vital problem solving skills
  • learn to code through a tactile approach for visual learners to practice sequencing and programming fundamentals
  • stimulate spatial thinking

Erin Medick from Franklin County Early Childhood Programs – Newton’s Laws Playground

The goals of Newton’s Law Playground Project is for preschool students to learn Newton’s Three Laws of Motion using a sensorimotor approach, developmentally appropriate language, and outdoor play. Concrete materials will be used to learn abstract concepts.


Law 1: “Stop or Start” – i.e. Ribbons/scarfs on a windy day
Law 2: “Fast and Far” – i.e. Climbing/Swinging self or objects on geodome
Law 3: “Equal and Opposite” -i.e. Bouncing/ seesaw


This project follows the principles of universal design for learning by using multi-modal teaching strategies and varied materials. The students will learn and apply the three laws of motion through structured and unstructured play by building, exploring, and experimenting while on the playground. We aim to capitalize on learning by embedding their STEM education into an activity that occurs everyday (recess). We anticipate a multi-disciplinary staff supporting the implementation of this project (classroom teacher, special educators, paraprofessionals, occupational therapists, PE teachers, and physical therapists).

Alex Lehning from Saint Albans Museum – Lake Lessons

“Lake Lessons” is a place-based, hands-on STEAM /cultural heritage workshop series for elementary school students. In 2018, the Saint Albans Museum piloted this program in collaboration with volunteer support from the Friends of Northern Lake Champlain, Missisquoi River Basin Association, the Lake Champlain Basin Program, and the VT Agency of Agriculture. Our volunteer instructors – using adapted and original lesson plans – served 500+ students and educators over six half-day sessions at St. Albans Bay Park and Georgia Beach Park. SAM secured grant funding and provided this enrichment opportunity to three local schools for free (including transportation), bringing to life the stories of shipbuilding and maritime commerce alongside those of our watershed ecology.

Students created original art, learned about the water cycle and watershed development, ‘solved’ the mystery of the canal boat “Gleaner,” and designed their own “dream farm.” In each and every group, there were always a number of students who shared that this was their very first time at the Bay, or even on the lake. This program reflected the Museum’s mission to preserve and share our local history – as well our role in helping to shape the emerging stories of our community. We targeted 3rd and 4th grade because their existing curriculum includes local history and introductory environmental science units. Our goal was to provide an engaging and interactive educational experience for the next generation – who will become our area residents, farmers, civic leaders, and decision-makers around the health of Lake Champlain.