Excel Grant Stories – STEM

STEM stands for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. STEM is important because it pervades every part of our lives. … By exposing students to STEM and giving them opportunities to explore STEM-related concepts, they will develop a passion for it and hopefully pursue a job in a STEM field.

All young people should be prepared to think deeply and to think well so that they have the chance to become the innovators, educators, researchers, and leaders who can solve the most pressing challenges facing our nation and our world, both today and tomorrow. But, right now, not enough of our youth have access to quality STEM learning opportunities and too few students see these disciplines as springboards for their careers.

~ U.S. Department of Education

Student’s race, zip code, or socioeconomic status should never determine their STEM fluency. HPS strives to provide all students equal access to high-quality STEM learning opportunities and the Highline Schools Foundation is a proud partner in that goal.

“Come on Let’s Dance” with Ozobot 2.0 and Cozmo” at Pacific Middle School

Come on Let’s DanceThe purpose of the grant was to provide opportunities for my Design and Engineering students to go to the next level of computer programming by engaging with Ozobot 2 and Cosmo. We were very fortunate that the newest Ozobot, EVO was released, which is the third generation of Ozobots.

Initially we had wanted to expand our programming abilities with Ozobot 2’s, but the new EVO opened up a whole new realm that would take the students beyond their initial expectations. EVO proved to be the perfect differentiated tool. Everyone had success at some level. Students saw others reach higher levels of accomplishments and wanted to emulate what they saw. EVO provided a new avenue for 21st Century skills, especially collaboration and communication.

The students were excited about the grant and could not wait to get their new Ozobot 2’s. Since using the first generation Ozobots, many of the students decided they wanted one of their own. They began following the updates on ozobot.com and were looking forward to the next level of challenges.

As it so happened, several of the tech savvy students discovered EVO, the third generation Ozobot was being released simultaneous to our receiving the grant. These students suggested we bypass Ozobot 2 and move right on to EVO, the third generation Ozobot. I tasked all five classes with doing the research between Ozobot 2 and EVO. They had to come up with a list of pros and cons and present their case to their class. Overwhelmingly, students wanted to bypass Ozobot 2 and go for the EVO.

Their reasoning was EVO did so much more in terms of programming and the ability it had to interface with their Smartphones. The most compelling argument was they had learned all they could from the original Ozobots. They knew they could take their programming skills further with Ozobot 2’s, but felt they would outgrow the Ozobot 2’s and then want the more advanced features of the EVO.

Their written proposal included the following: Come on Let’s Dance2“EVO is the third generation Ozobot, with autonomous LED lights, sounds and movements. Evo uses Infrared Proximity Sensing to avoid obstacles and App-Enabled RC Controls to explore the world with you. With EVO, we can program EVO mastering the basics with color codes on paper, then learn block-based programming with OzoBlockly. The ability to use our ios and Android devices, gives us the opportunity to program using OzoBlockly and interface with our own handheld devices.”

They were ecstatic when they discovered once they got the Ozobot Evo app they had the ability to connect with friends using OzoChat worldwide messaging as send and receive Ozojis, similar to emoji’s which emulated emotions that EVO could act out.

An unexpected benefit of EVO was when we discovered EVO was evolving daily based on the experiences and interactions it had with each group the day before. As students reached various levels of achievement, new experiences and challenges were unlocked. This feature excited the kids a lot because it allows them to be creative and think outside the box daily.

While the grant specifically benefited my Design and Engineering students, we also had the opportunity to bring the generation one Ozobots to Highline STEMfest held at Highline Community College. The 230 young ladies in attendance were able to experience Ozobots for the very first time. Twenty-three of my girls were in attendance and were able to share their experiences with EVO with the girls and their teachers from the other Highline schools. It was exciting to watch these girls interact with others from the district, showing them their Smartphone apps and explaining all EVO had taught them.

“I love how you guys provide the grants. They are fair and equitable. Everyone has an equal opportunity to succeed and meet the needs of students within our schools. My students are aware of the process and are not at all shy about asking me if I would write another grant for … I tell them I would be happy to, but I need their help. They are excited to sit with me after school and help brainstorm grant ideas and how they will be directly benefitted by the grant. This is a wonderful process because students are given a chance to make their voice known. When the grant is awarded, they feel vested in their learning and are proud of the equipment. One student in particular this year summed it up well. “I never thought adults would actually listen and care about what we think we need to learn.” You give them hope. Thank you.” ~ Sandy Gady

Dissection Materials and Tools at Highline High School

Dissection materials and toolsI wanted my students to have a hands on experience with body systems, through dissection. This grant made that possible. My students were incredibly engaged and students that often check out during class were leading the charge finding anatomical structures and asking interesting questions.

My students were thrilled every day to find out what body system we were exploring and wanted to start working with their pig immediately. One student, who struggles to engage with any content before now, was actively leading his group in the process. He was asking questions about how systems worked and helping his group explain how specific systems worked.

“This was a wildly successful project. Even though the pigs can’t be reused, the dissection supplies will be used in classes to come. Students noticed that they had new materials and were excited to use materials that were sharp and very functional (doesn’t often happen with our old lab supplies). Thanks again!” ~ Sara Ullmer

LEGO WeDo Robotic’s Kits to support Problem-Based Investigations at Beverly Park Elementary

LEGO WeDo Robotic's Kits I accomplished what I set out to do which was engage students in problem-based learning through LEGO robotic kits. I trained 8 staff members in order to use and maintain our kits with various grade levels. Over 100 students have used these kits and more will be doing so during SBA testing as a testing break.

The kits have provided opportunities for quiet and low performing students to become confident and excel. One student in particular who previously would have a hard time finding a partner to work with due to his shyness and quietness is now sought after as the best LEGO builder in class. Students have solved real problems and created unique designs for fans, amusement park rides, and construction machines. The interactive software teaches various ways to make their designs work the way they planned.

“I have been very pleased and very fortunate to have received such a large grant! Thanks!” ~ Charles Jamieson

Math for Independence and Understanding at Global Connections High School

The grant to purchase eight TI-84 calculators allowed the students in this Resource Room classroom to be more successful in their math class. Before receiving the grant, the students had no access to the one tool that would help them excel. Since receiving the calculators, the students are on more equitable footing with their peers and are able to excel to higher standards.

As an educator, it is painful to watch students unable to go as far as they can due to a lack of resources in a classroom. The grant to purchase the TI-84 Plus calculators has allowed the students to be more successful and have more access in their math class than they previously had. Because the students now have daily access to these calculators, they are no longer in danger of falling behind and have every opportunity to reach their full potential.

“Thank you so much for all of your hard work in providing these grants.” ~ Linda Lambert

Math Materials Needed for First Grade Mathematicians at Hazel Valley Elementary

Math Materials Needed for First Grade MathematiciansThe materials funded by this grant have been used by students throughout our entire math block both when working independently, when working with each other, and when working with the teacher in small groups. The materials have allowed us to differentiate our math instruction to meet the needs of our diverse students throughout our entire math block. Students can now engage in a variety of activities that challenge their thinking, and help them develop math fluency.

Every day in my classroom, the materials purchased by the grant are used. During the independent practice station, students use their number lines, laminated hundred boards, unifix cubes or counters to help them solve the problems they need to work on. During the game/activity station, students use the dice, spinners or dominoes to play games printed on the white/colored card stock. During the teacher station, we use the giant magnetic number bonds, fact family triangles, the rekenrek, and the reusable dry-erase pockets. The materials have made such a difference during our math block! They have helped students stay engaged, and have helped me challenge students in math. Without these materials, I would not be able to successfully implement the guided math model.

“Thank you! This grant has helped improve my math instruction tremendously.” ~ Tania Zaballa

Northwest Barn Owls & Owl Pellets at Hilltop Elementary

Northwest Barn Owls - Owl PelletsWith the money from my grant, I was able to purchase owl pellets for 4, 6th grade classes. Pellets are the non-digested bits of fur and bone, from prey that an owl eats. This unit takes place to support the 6th grade trip to Waskowitz.  I set out to give the 6th graders the experience of discovery and they loved it. Of course there is the “yuck” factor, but the excitement the students show for the process is fun to see.

I believe that the more we know about the natural world around us, and the animals we share that space with, the more we tend to be better stewards of our “space”. I begin that thinking by teaching about owls and their part in the food chain here in the Northwest. These lessons are continued during their time at Camp Waskowitz. Not only do the students enjoy the process of discovery, as they dissect the pellets, it helps them become aware of the food chain and how we are all connected. with this activity they really understand first hand how interdependent we all are.

“I see everyday that when students are excited about learning and engaged, they blossom. Maybe I can light that spark that will inspire the next biologist or environmental scientist.” ~ Terre Salzer

Portable Garden at Cedarhurst Elementary

Portable GardenThis project connected with our Environmental Science Unit and our Science Fair. I purchased materials to set up a small container garden in front of our portable. Students worked in groups to plan, plant, and take care of the garden. Two groups (8 students) used the garden for their science fair project.

I have a quiet and reserved class. I saw many students become more active and more interested in working together. As the plants grew, students became more interested in the type of plants and which plants grew best in our location. We measured growth and noticed that because of our chilly, rainy spring, some plants were not as robust as we predicted.  The group that grew spinach cut it for the rest of the class and we had a salad together. Students also worried about their plants, making sure they were watered before the weekend, and upset when one container was tipped over. A sense of ownership was obvious and also a lot of excitement for being outdoors.

“Thank you for supporting hands on science and outdoor learning. Student motivation is high in these areas and there are not enough opportunities for them to have garden experiences. Because I have containers and tools, I can easily create another garden next year!” ~ Roseanne Esposito

Preschoolers Move with Math at Gregory Heights Elementary

Preschoolers Move with MathAll students in my classroom are able to access math instruction, including those who have difficulty sitting still for more traditional math activities. Students’ abilities to count and name written numerals has greatly improved. The materials I received from this grant enabled me to accomplish both of these goals.

All students are able to access math and are motivated to engage in math activities. I gave my students a challenge one day to put all the stepping-stones with numerals on them in order starting with 1. We were setting up for an obstacle course, which they love to do, so they were all motivated. They worked together, named written numerals, communicated with each other, and explained their thinking in order to get the stepping-stones in order. During the obstacle course they proudly named each number as they counted and stepped on the stones. Incorporating math in to everyday activities such as these made math more real, motivating, engaging, and fun for all students.

“Thank you!!! This grant has made a huge difference in my class.” ~ Sharmaine Guyll

Robots in Action at Gregory Heights Elementary

Robots in ActionThe sixth grade team at Gregory Heights set out to get students coding through hands-on experiences. While a few of the details we had oped to accomplish are still in the beginning phases, every sixth grade student has participated in a variety of hands-on coding experiences with the Dot and Dash robots. In teams, students wrote movies and music videos, storyboarded their ideas, coded the robots to be the actors, filmed their movies, and edited their videos using a green screen app on the iPads. All students engaged in creative problem solving, teamwork, coding, and innovative blended learning.

Every student in the sixth grade at Gregory Heights has been able to participate in hands-on coding experiences. Students are excited about coding and learning about careers in STEM. Through the challenges we’ve given students, they’ve had to work together to creatively solve problems. Students are beginning to see that they can control technology and use it to solve problems and create new things. Students have become tech-savvy and tech-literate as they have worked with their classmates to persevere in creating innovative projects with the robots. As you can see through the following videos, every student is engaged and focused when working with the robots.

check it outCheck out these great YouTube Videos!
team planning session: https://youtu.be/hYyIPM_Nnbs
one team’s movie trailer: https://youtu.be/EApVFiZjkps
another team’s music video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RpJoYVsSey4
school board presentation video: https://youtu.be/WnhTL1Kg1qw

STEM Centers for 1st Grade at Shorewood Elementary

STEM centers for 1st gradeWe were so thankful to receive the excel grant to fund our STEM centers! Our students love these materials and always want a turn at this center. It is awesome to see students excited to work with STEM materials and practice their critical thinking skills through center time. I was also encouraged to see many more girls interested in choosing these STEM centers. It has been a fun way to expose the kids to STEM concepts and they have repeated practice to develop their skills. We also often have indoor recess during the winter months and these centers gave the students the opportunity to work together as a team, create models from blueprints, and be just be creative!

Our STEM centers have made a positive impact on 1st grade in many ways. It has helped our students improve their team work, are more excited to practice STEM concepts, and keeps them actively engaged in learning during indoor recess.

I had a new student come to our class from Somalia who did not speak any English. He was nervous and shy about being in school and his favorite activity was to create buildings with the magnet tiles. As he became more comfortable he starting asking his classmates to help him build and was able to start practicing simple English words and phrases through the center.

I have a group of girls who are struggling in math and do not like math. The STEM centers have been a great opportunity to show them how they can use math and that they can be successful. It is helping to build their confidence and show them some real world application to the math skills we have been practicing.

“Our office manager had a coupon with Lakeshore that gave us extra money to spend because we had such a large order. We added a few more STEM items. Thanks again for everything!” ~ Jenny Lin

Tech Bridge Loves STEM at Beverly Park Elementary

Tech Bridge Loves STEMTwenty 5th and 6th grade girls that are part of the Tech Bridge Program at Beverly Park visited Raisbeck Aviation High School. The girls toured the school and were given the opportunity to work in the shop using tools to complete their own key fob with the help of the girls on the Skunk Works Robotic team,

The girls really enjoyed seeing RAHS. One of them asked if it was a college. All the girls had their phones out and were talking pictures. Their faces were priceless as each girl used the shop tools .

“The idea for this field trip came from Sydney Gardner, a student at RAHS. Thank you for making it happen. It benefitted both groups of girls.” ~ Ruth Gardner

The Butterfly Scientists of 2nd Grade at Hazel Valley Elementary

The Butterfly Scientists of 2nd GradeWe were able to fully immerse our students in learning about the butterfly life cycle by providing them with caterpillar eggs to watch and observe. Not only are they able to have a real life experience seeing these caterpillars grow, it has allowed them to given them the opportunity to work on the following skills: Making connections, assessing cause and effect relationships, noticing and stating changes, and asking questions. We are currently in the process of accomplishing what we set to accomplish due to our caterpillars just arriving about a week and a half ago!

This grant made a difference in our classes by getting students excited about learning. Giving them butterfly eggs and taking them to the butterfly house at the Science Center provides them with a hands on, real world science experience that builds on their natural curiosity and wonder about how the world works. Students tracked the growth of their butterflies in fascination, taking detailed notes in their science journals, and several students went home or to the library to research butterflies in order to add new insights to our growing class knowledge. Discussions were rich and meaningful with so many first-hand experiences from which to draw.

“This grant helped our students see themselves as scientists, and see science as something that they love!” ~ Kristina Nicchi

“We Do” STEM with Legos at Seahurst Elementary

We Do STEM with Legos

With this grant, I was able to provide my students with an opportunity that they would not have had this year-learning STEM skills while coding and playing with Legos. My students were able to work on collaborative STEM projects that required them to problem solve and use reasoning skills to complete the various projects outlined in the WeDo 2.0 curriculum.

This grant has made a huge difference in my class. Students are more motivated to come to school and daily attendance by certain students has increased. Students have risen to the high expectations that I have placed on them to problem solve collaboratively with their partners. They also exceeded my expectations of assisting other partnerships when they are having difficulties. Students are highly engaged in the activities and want us to work on Legos everyday!

“Thank you so very much for the opportunity to provide this to my students.” ~ Wendy Colmus


Since 1999, the Highline Schools Foundation has been supporting innovation and excellence in Highline Public Schools. Our funding priorities focus on programs to improve academic achievement, supporting college and career readiness, grants to teachers for engaging classroom projects, the arts, athletics, and programs that keep students in school and productive. Highline is a district full of need and opportunity. The Highline Schools Foundation is the only non-profit organization dedicated to all schools in our district—our goal is to help as many students as possible be successful!

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