Stafford School District’s STEAM Night Gets Bigger, Better and More Popular

Jan 31, 2018
Photo by: David Biggy Maylen Durasky (left) and mom April Benko work on a spaghetti structure during Stafford School District’s Family STEAM Night on Jan. 29.

Not long after the doors opened to Stafford Intermediate School at 6 p.m. on Jan. 29, Maylen Durasky and her family walked into Room 201 and went to work on constructing some sort of structure. Their tools? Uncooked spaghetti and mini marshmallows.

“It’s Elf the Snowman’s house,” said the McKinley School third-grader, smiling alongside her brother, Mylam, who helped by building the base of the structure on one side of the table, while she helped develop the roof on the other side. “I wanted to come to this station. I wanted a challenge, and this looked interesting.”

Ah, yes. Family STEAM Night 2018 – when Stafford School District boys and girls bring their relatives and get to show and tell all about the cool things they do in one of the most popular lab classes in the district.

“I like to create things,” Maylen said. “STEAM helps me learn how science connects to everything. Mrs. Schmidt makes STEAM fun. It’s my favorite class.”

And while Maylen and Mylam were busy building their spaghetti model house, hundreds of other youngsters – way too many to try to count – and their families patrolled through the many rooms to participate in dozens of STEAM activities.

Primary Learning Center kindergartner Ava Donohue was blowing her air racer in the gymnasium, while classmate Raelynn Machotka wasn’t far away, building a tower with plastic cups, and Mya and Michael Lioudis, with help from their dad, Mike, developed a roller coaster using cut-in-half foam tubing and masking tape in the library.

“It looks pretty good, even though it needs a bit of improvement,” said Mya, who delightedly eyed the structure, its high point taped up to a support pole as it snaked down toward the floor, attached to one of the book shelves, and ended with a pair of loops. “We did it with one loop last year, but this year we wanted to try two. I learned that making one loop bigger helps the marble go around quicker into the next loop, so we tried that and it worked. I like designing things.”

Elsewhere in the gym, Southern Regional School District students again joined the fun by hosting a math carnival, full of various math-related activities to challenge the younger students, while many others built mini racer cars, Keva plank towers and bird feeders. Computer lab games and still more activities were spread throughout the building.

“Last year, we had this on Thursday and it was great,” said the “Queen of STEAM,” Cathy Sbailo, manning one of the air racer tracks. “But we figured we’d try a Monday, and I think we’ve had a much better turnout. It’s exciting because it really shows how much STEAM resonates with the students in all our schools.”

One of this year’s additions to STEAM Night was in Room 113, where Maylen Durasky’s favorite STEAM teacher, along with several others, hosted Terrapin Station. Turtle crafts were cool, but most of the students first had to stop by for a gander at the five Northern Diamondback terrapins residing in a nearby tank.

“This is the first year we’ve partnered with MATES for this project, and it’s going well so far,” Schmidt said of the Marine Academy of Technology and Environmental Science’s research initiative Project Terrapin, through which McKinley STEAM students are getting to raise the five turtles before delivering them back to MATES so they can be released into the wild.

“The kids are super excited about it. The third-graders do more of the observation, and the fourth-graders help care for the terrapins. We collect data on them and send the data back to MATES through their student liaison.”

In groups of three or four, students who walked into the room admired the young amphibious creatures, pointing out which one was which based on a colored spot on each of their backs and correlated to the names on the nearby board – Diamond, Delta, Sheldon, Bubbles and (of course) Donatello.

“My favorite is Donatello,” Schmidt said. “She’s the biggest of the bunch.”

— David Biggy

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