It’s Tuesday morning at Barclay Elementary/Middle School, a neighborhood school in Charles Village. Third graders are huddled around bowls of bran cereal, magnets in hand. Their job: to determine whether or not the cereal is magnetic.
Hands-on-science is part of the ‘every day’ experience at Barclay School. Under the leadership of principal Armanda Carr, the school is coming to the end of their first year of a 10 year innovative partnership with Johns Hopkins Whiting School of Engineering. Their goal? Become a leader in science, technology, engineering, and math (S.T.E.M) education and integrate it across the curriculum. (That’s right — science in reading and art, too!)
So what does learning look like at Barclay? Students build robots with Lego Mindstorms, engage in activities through JHU’s Aquaponics and Food Laboratory, design cityscapes with 3D printers, create their own species, and code after school. Middle school students are engaged in stream studies at Patapsco State Park or in physics explorations at Roundtop Mountain Resort. All students in grades 3-8 visit JHU’s campus labs as part of their subject matter studies. School visits generally are not permitted at JHU’s labs because of safety precautions — so kids at Barclay get unique access because of the school’s partnership.
Barclay students have their own lab, too. JHU helped them renovate a science and engineering lab in the school so students and teachers have a bright, innovative space to create and learn. The space includes 3D printers, customized computers, smartboards, and a makerspace.
That’s just the tip of the partnership iceberg, so to speak. In concert with JHU, Barclay receives curriculum development, implementation support, resources, and faculty development — for both in school and out of school endeavors. Students don’t stop “STEM” when the dismissal bell rings. They’re involved in after-school gardening, science olympiad, biomedical engineering, and more.
According to one sixth grade girl, the ‘absolute best thing’ was exploring rockets and making balloon rockets. Her friend told us that robotics was her favorite project this year… so far.
One of the most impressive things about the partnership is the nature of collaboration between the Barclay community and the Hopkins community. When the Women in Computer Science (WICS) organization at JHU saw a void in computer science offerings, they secured grant money and founded an after school coding club for fourth graders at Barclay. (Just a note — although the club is run by Hopkins students in WICS, the coding club is open to all).
Barclay is also part of the STEM Achievement in Baltimore Elementary Schools (SABES) program, another project of JHU. The program leverages expertise of JHU faculty, postdoctoral researchers, graduate, and undergraduate students, and aims to improve STEM curriculum in grades 3-5. Nine schools are part of the program, which engages approximately 40 teachers and 2250 students across the district.
If you’re curious about STEM at Barclay or through the SABES program, definitely check out their STEM Showcase on May 3rd! It’s being held at Newton H. White, Jr. Athletic Center at JHU and involves students from across the district sharing their hands-on STEM projects. We hear some of the hybrid species created by Barclay students as part of their “What Makes Me Me” unit will be there…
Now… about that cereal. It is iron-fortified. Does that mean it’s magnetic?
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Photos by Laura Black.