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OBEN Students Build STEM Skills for Computer Science Education Week

The Oyster Bay-East Norwich Central School District was abuzz with excitement and discovery as students and their families marked Computer Science Education Week with a host of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) activities, also known as STEM Week.

An eight-year tradition in the District, STEM Week has expanded from its former STEM Night and was presented virtually. Students were encouraged to complete 3-6 challenges in computer coding, STEM, and science, with the opportunity to be entered into raffles for prizes such as Amazon gift cards, earbuds, games, and robots. As an added feature, parents, and students age 10 and over were invited to a community viewing and discussion of the movie “The Social Dilemma,” a docu-drama about the consequences of our growing dependency on social media. The event was facilitated by members of the Oyster Bay High School Computer Science Club. Coding activities were held in conjunction with Hour of Code, a global campaign to show that anyone can learn the basics of computer coding.

“The goal of this week-long event is to bring to life STEM-related principals that are being taught in the classroom by engaging families in meaningful, hands-on learning experiences,” said Ms. Ostroff, Supervisor of Science and Instructional Technology who coordinates the event with the help of the district’s science and technology staff. “K-12 students participate in age-appropriate activities that challenge them to think critically and problem solve.”

Theodore Roosevelt students, pre-K-grade 2, worked on their coding skills with Minecraft, Candy Quest and Dr. Seuss’ the Grinch; learned physics principals with such activities as the Egg Drop challenge, and piqued their fascination with chemical reactions in a colorful “exploding baggie” activity, made possible by combining baking soda and vinegar in a baggie with a few drops of food coloring. Students learned that the two ingredients create carbon dioxide gas. When the gas fills the baggie and runs out of room, it causes the bag to pop!

Vernon students, grades 3-6, honed their coding skills with programs such as Dodo Does Math and Dance Party, stretched their minds with STEM challenges, including building a balance scale, creating a structure building, and making a crank winch simple machine. On the science end, students explored the chemical reaction behind creating slime, a perennial favorite, examined how surface tension works using a paper boat and a drop of soap in a tray of water, and studied the science of rain using a clear container with water and topping it with a big “rain cloud” of shaving cream. Using diluted food coloring, students placed a few drops on the cloud of shaving cream and watched them make a “rainstorm.” Students learned that clouds form when warm air mixes with tiny particles like dust and rises high up in the sky where the air is colder. The cold air turns the warm air into a liquid, the clouds become heavy and then it rains.

Coding activities for Oyster Bay High School students, grades 7-12, ranged from training artificial intelligence to pick up trash in the ocean to using JavaScript to improve a game.  Students participated in STEM skills activities, such as how to make a nonstop water fountain out of plastic bottles and straws, how to make a model of a cell membrane, and how to make an Archimedes Screw, an ancient device used to lift water from one location to another. Students examined scientific challenges, including making room-temperature water boil by placing it in a plastic syringe and changing the pressure, studying genetics by extracting your own DNA at home using simple household items, and microwaving a bisected grape to make plasma and studying how that works.

The week ended with a virtual celebration and raffle-drawing in which more than 100 students participated. Dozens of STEM-based prizes that were generously donated by the PTA were put in the hands of students to enhance their skills.

“Many thanks to our teachers, students, families, and PTA members who helped make our first week-long, virtual event a huge success,” Ms. Ostroff added.

Staff members involved in the event included Oyster Bay High School computer science teacher Ms. Suprabha Malhar-Jain, science teaching assistant Ms. Maria Malzone, Vernon School science teacher Ms. Patricia Murray, Vernon School technology teacher Mr. Keith Harrison and Vernon School Elementary Innovation Specialist Ms. Dana Wisselman, and Theodore Roosevelt Elementary School science and technology teacher Ms. Regina D’Orio. For more about science and technology in the District visit