For the second year running, Santa Clara Unified School District’s (SCUSD) STEAM Expo went virtual.
“With nearly 6,000 student projects showcased, this year’s virtual event was an amazing success,” said SCUSD Superintendent Dr. Stella M. Kemp. “The diversity of student work exhibits the inspired teaching and learning happening in our schools every day. Thank you to all who make this year’s virtual expo possible!”
The event featured science, technology, engineering, arts and math projects from across the district and included Mission College this year.
Many of the projects spanned several of the STEAM categories. A trio of students (Ally, Megha and Melanie) from Peterson Middle School created a video book trailer to convince their peers to read the book “Caraval”.
While third graders at Don Callejon School shared what they learned during Black History Month through song and poetry.
Other students created projects to try and solve environmental issues. A group of Cabrillo Middle School students (Azalea, Kali and Trisha) experimented with the creation of bioplastics as an alternative to plastic bags.
Fifth graders at Scott Lane Elementary School shared their essays on what humans can do to protect our environment.
“We can stop wasting water, we also can stop polluting our air and oceans,” wrote Heidi. “We can stop buying palm oil, plastic spoons, forks, plates and much more to protect our environment. Let’s change our environment together.”
Some of the projects explored things students were passionate about.
New Valley High School student Vanessa submitted a video product review of her Adidas NMD shoes, including likes and recommendations.
“I’d recommend these shoes to people who do a lot of walking or just anyone who enjoys wearing comfortable shoes,” said Vanessa in her presentation.
While Wilson High School student Monica submitted an essay titled “A Costume Analysis of West Side Story” in which she examined the costumes in the new 2021 Steven Spielberg adaptation of the film.
“In a single movie there are thousands of moments of artistic intention, seen in costuming makeup, camera positioning, acting, etc. There is a unique and intricate science behind every step, based in human psychology and perception,” wrote Monica.
Inventive ideas this year included work by Laurelwood 4th grader Matthew, who explored whether or not M&M colors were distributed evenly within the packaging. Matthew investigated different packages of M&Ms including classic, peanut, fudge brownie, crunchy cookie and ice cream.
“My analysis from looking at the percentages is that brown is the lowest in the survey and the experiment,” said Matthew in his report. “Blue and green is the highest in the survey and experiment. Red and yellow are in the middle of the survey and the experiment and orange does not match the experiment.”
While second graders at George Mayne Elementary experimented with different building blocks to discover which creations would best protect the three little pigs from the Big Bad Wolf.
This year’s program was virtual, but SCUSD is hoping to bring the STEAM Expo back in person next year.
While it is certainly admirable to engage students in quasi science projects, one has to wonder whether students were actually learning any important science content or skills. Could they identify a question that could be studied using the science method if establishing hypotheses, identifying independent and dependent variables and controlled variables. Collect and analyze data and draw evidence-based conclusions. Analyzing potential error would also be good. The expo seems like an eclectic approach to science that engaged students in topics but without real rigor. So typical of the lost in the fog K-12 education. All hat and no cattle!