Students Tackle Real-World Issues

Posted On Tuesday May 14, 2019
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L-R: Lord Elgin PS students Maliha and Junaid collaborate to build a structure that can withstand a flood.

DDSB elementary students participate in the Sustainable STEM Olympics

This past April Durham District School Board (DDSB) elementary students in Grades 4-8 participated in an innovative event called the Sustainable Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) Olympics. The Grade 4-6 students competed amongst each other first, with the Grade 7 and 8 students competing later in the month.

“It gets them [students] thinking about how STEM skills and our 21st century advantages allow us to tackle some of the challenges that face our world,” explains Jane Kennedy, STEM and Science Facilitator at the DDSB.

Throughout the day, students were introduced to the Sustainable Development Goals set forth by the United Nations (UN). These 17 goals outline ways we can create a more sustainable future for everyone. They address global challenges such as: poverty, inequality, and environmental degradation.

Participating in interactive workshops, students in groups of four dove into STEM-based problem solving using real-life examples. Students covered issues such as earthquakes, floods, oil spills, and more. In the Climate Action workshop, students were tasked with building a structure that can survive a flood. Their structure needed to be a maximum of 30 cm long by 20 cm wide (no height restrictions), and they used tools including plastic wrap, tin foil, and elastic bands. The structures were then tested in a container of water to see if they stayed dry, if they stood still against the water, and if the structure stayed intact (no pieces fell off).

Changing our World

At the end of the day, students listened to keynote speaker Josh Morrison. Morrison is currently a Grade 12 student at Uxbridge Secondary School. Back in 2013, at the age of 11, he pledged to collect 10 million pennies ($100,000) for Habitat for Humanity. Morrison finally met his goal (and more) in December of his Grade 10 year. “The resting total was $124,000,” says Morrison. He adds, “The point is, youth have the ability to bring change to this world. We can use our knowledge in STEM subjects to figure out solutions to help change world issues.”

After the keynote, student-teams won awards for collaboration, creative thinking, positivity, engineering, and perseverance.