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SCHERERVILLE — At St. Michael Catholic School, the preschoolers are participating in a STEM project, as part of the entire school's taking STEM education, that is, science, technology, engineering and math, to a new level with updated technology.

Ellen Egert, who started the preschool program 10 years ago, launched a classroom project called "Balloons Aloft" with her group of 4- and 5-year-olds.

Egert talked to students about air and the fact that it's all around us.

"Air is a force that can move objects. It can move things that are really heavy or really light," she told the youngsters before reading a story called "The Wind Blew."

Egert used a balloon and feathers to teach a simple STEM project for young children. She said she wanted them to understand the concept, and they would build on it as they learned about wind turbines and pinwheels, and other objects that are moved by air.

Valentina Rivera, 5, and Veronique Kalil, 4, learned the concept quickly and used a straw to blow air to keep their balloon afloat. Next, they tried the activity with a small feather and were able to blow through the straw to get the feather to fly.

Egert told them even a small amount of air can keep the balloon moving, and she explained that balloons will ultimately hit the ground as a result of gravity.

In Mary Ann Tonkovich's third-grade class, the youngsters worked on measurements before a reading activity.

The students had to measure the size of the classroom, one by using their feet and the other with a measuring tape, then compare results. They said the results with the tape were more accurate than measuring by walking across the room.

Tonkovich said the third-graders just completed a unit on standard measurements, learning about standard versus non-standard forms of measurement.

St. Michael third-grader Sarah Gordon said sometimes the book "teaches math in a really weird way, but Mrs. T. teaches us better ways to understand it and do the problems."

St. Michael School has new technology this year including Chromebook laptops, Elmos (an advanced projector system) and two 3-D printers.

School spokeswoman Monica Jimenez-Susoreny said the entire school is working on STEM projects.

"It gives students a chance to get experiential learning," she said.

"STEM is important, because it teaches the core subjects and combines that with high-end experiential learning projects. It also helps them to retain what they learn in other classes."

St. Michael Principal Colleen Kennedy said no matter what teachers teach, reading and math is always a focus.

"Our teachers take advantage of professional development and doing more STEM projects with students to encourage them in those areas. Teachers are on the bandwagon. They see the correlation between science, technology and math and the importance of building lesson plans around it," Kennedy said.

Kennedy said St. Michael has an enrollment of 230 students in preschool through eighth grade. Of that total, 30 students are in the preschool program. The school's largest class is the seventh-grade with 36 students.


Southlake County Reporter

Carmen is an award-winning journalist who has worked at The Times newspaper for 20 years. Before that she also had stints at The Clarion-Ledger in Jackson, Miss., The Post-Tribune and The News Dispatch in Michigan City.