Stunned silence. That’s how the group of kindergarten and first grade students sat as they interacted with NAO, a 14-month-old wireless robot that answered questions, moved around
and even danced! NAO and Mark Bishop of Mobile Ed Productions, along with the STEM
Museum, visited Center School in mid-April thanks to a Hopkinton Education Foundation
grant awarded to Center School Principal, Lauren Dubeau, and Elementary Director of
Curriculum, Meredith Ekwall. This was a culmination of a yearlong STEM classroom experience, which engaged nearly 400 students in critical thinking, creativity, collaboration,
and communication.

Other than their experience with robotics, students were given the opportunity to explore stations focusing on numerous STEM concepts; Holograms, Newton’s Cradle, Friction Raceway, Geometric Shapes, Electricity Generation and more. According to Principal Dubreau “students of all abilities and learning styles readily investigated and explored, deepening their growing understanding of STEM concepts.” Kale Martin, a kindergartener, couldn’t decide what his favorite part of the day was. “I love everything!,” he exclaimed as he motored from activity to activity.

According to Rebecca Leary, a Kindergarten teacher at the school, the STEM curriculum in her classroom has been a motivating factor for students to use a hands on approach to understand what scientists and engineers do in the community. She remarked that the students enjoyed creating their own bridges to see how strong they could make them. “I love building the arches” said kindergartener Ryan Dow, a potential engineer in training. He spent nearly 25 minutes of self-directed free play at the arch building center working diligently with his peers, attempting to put together the perfect arch with appropriate supports.

In first grade, educator Liz Farrell noted that students focused a lot of STEM energy on light and understanding how light is absorbed transmitted and reflected. These lessons could be demonstrated as the students pedaled a stationary bike, attempting to light up bulbs, thus generating electricity!

In addition to the wireless robot NAO, the students were highly impressed by the 3D printer, which worked throughout the day to create miniature plastic versions of some well-known cartoon characters. Watching the small printer create something “out of nothing” amazed the students and even many of the volunteers.

Liz Gormley, a Hopkinton Education Board Member was one of the volunteers at the event as well as a parent to a Kindergarten student. “ It is so exciting to see Education Foundation grants in action. There is clearly a thirst for knowledge amongst the students at Center School which was shown by their smiles, laughter and enthusiasm all day long.” The principal agrees. Ms. Dubeau couldn’t be more pleased with how this grant has impacted the students at Center School; “Overall the Foundations in Engineering grant has had a profound impact on the young learners of Center School. The grant provided the resources and materials to approach STEM in a meaningful manner as well as expose students to a wide array of STEM activities. The HEF grant engaged Center Students in a unique STEM experience that contributes to school success and builds lifetime impressions.”