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Parkway Third Grade Wins County STEM Challenge
By: PHS Junior Loren Stukey


  For Parkway’s third-grade students, November 21 was set aside to complete the Mercer County Education Service Center’s STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) challenge. The Mercer County ESC provided all of the supplies needed for all county schools to participate in this challenge.  The students were given eleven popsicle sticks, one spoon, and five rubber bands to create a catapult capable of launching a marshmallow several feet toward a target. The third-grade classes were able to conveniently complete the challenge without even leaving the building. The classes were divided into groups to compete against each other.  Nydia Carrizales and Magdalene Rich, both from Mrs. Teri Samples homeroom, won the overall challenge when competing against the other third grade students at Parkway. When asked what they learned from the challenge, first they said they learned how a catapult can be used to shoot something in the air. The girls also said they learned that with two minds working together they were able to come up with more ideas on how to build the catapult.  The strategy that seemed to work for them was simply using their imagination to figure out how to use the popsicle sticks, rubber bands, and the spoon to create a small catapult to shoot the marshmallow. They were able to use trial and error to figure out if their catapult was successful before the actual competition. The skill they used the most was communication. They were constantly communicating to figure out what was working or not. The part that was most challenging for them was figuring out how many popsicle sticks to use. The girls found out that when they used too many popsicle sticks the catapult would not bend far enough to shoot the marshmallow.  They had to keep redesigning their catapult until it would bend enough to get to the bucket. They ended up using only two popsicle sticks, one spoon, and four rubber bands.  The contest was countywide, with the catapults being judged by the pictures that were uploaded to a Twitter account.  When all photos were submitted, Parkway's third grade class as a whole was selected as the winner and was awarded an Amazon gift card. The third-grade teachers plan to use this gift card toward the purchase of needed classroom supplies. 
By participating in the STEM challenge, third-grade teacher Amber McDonough wanted her students to use critical thinking skills that are not always used in the classroom. Mrs. McDonough stated how this challenge reached all third-grade students, regardless of academic standing.

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