Northwestern Press

Saturday, August 17, 2019
PRESS PHOTOS BY ANNA GILGOFFGracie Scheffler and Amber Bleiler worked collaboratively to produce electricity using dough as part of the circuit. PRESS PHOTOS BY ANNA GILGOFFGracie Scheffler and Amber Bleiler worked collaboratively to produce electricity using dough as part of the circuit.
Evan Wagastaff follows the instructions issued by Tracy Smoyer at the origami station. Evan Wagastaff follows the instructions issued by Tracy Smoyer at the origami station.
Spencer Deeney made slime under Hallie Bortz’s watchful eye. Spencer Deeney made slime under Hallie Bortz’s watchful eye.
Jake Smith crafted numerous templates he used to produce hundreds of snowflakes, which he sold to fund his Eagle Scout project. Jake Smith crafted numerous templates he used to produce hundreds of snowflakes, which he sold to fund his Eagle Scout project.

STEAM powers learning at Makers’ presentation

Wednesday, February 13, 2019 by ANNA GILGOFF Special to The Press in School

A few weeks before last Christmas break, the Makers Club invited Northwestern Lehigh fifth-grade students to a unique event in the high school STEAM lab.

The Makers set up five stations where their younger counterparts could visit and interactively explore squishy circuits, a slime station, vortex cannon, origami, and laser cut snowflakes.

STEAM is a short form for science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics.

The event is the collaboration between Tracy and Jeremy Smoyer, two teachers who wholeheartedly believe in the benefits of STEAM education because it is built on collaboration and creativity.

The couple is the perfect symbol for this approach to learning.

“STEAM marries the artistic with the technological, but we’re not competitive,” said Tracy Smoyer, an art teacher at the elementary school. “We both understand how the disciplines are connected.”

As a group of students gathered around the laser printer, Jeremy Smoyer narrated how the laser printer works.

“There’s a big glass tube down there,” he said. “We can’t see laser light but it will cut into the wood. We see it cutting on the surface [even though] we can’t see the laser light.”

The fifth graders were able to design and make a wooden ornament using the laser printer.

“I actually have a kid [funding] his Eagle Scout project by selling them around the school,” Jeremy Smoyer said. “Every ornament is different.”

To raise the funds necessary to “revamp the environmental lab,” junior Jacob Smith has taken what he learned about the laser printer to another level.

“I sold a bunch of ornaments at the Weisenberg Vendor Bazaar,” he said. “I sold them to friends and teachers. I bought all the materials. I did the prep stuff before winter and sold 50 the first day without even trying.”

Though this is the third year the Makers’ Club is sponsoring this event, this year is not a replica of the past.

“We try to mix it up each year,” Jeremy Smoyer said. “This year we subbed the origami station for the green screen.”

“Origami is the mathematical art of folding [paper] precisely,” said Tracy Smoyer, who was leading her group in constructing a flock of paper penguins.

The Makers joined their teachers in assisting the younger students.

Amber Bleiler coached Gracie Scheffler in making electricity using dough.

“It is the dough along with the battery [that] will conduct electricity and light up lights or do anything,” said Amber Bleiler, who wants to be a video game designer in the future.

“I just like the idea of making things and putting all your thoughts and ideas into what you can do, especially in this day and age of tech,” she added.

“It’s fun to see the kids play around at all the stations,” Connor Blawn said. “I love working with kids because they have questions and are creative.”

Not surprising, after graduation, Blawn will be attending LCCC’s nursing school to fulfill his dream of becoming a pediatric nursing.

“Being at the slime station is fun,” Hallie Bortz said. “It’s a good learning experience for the kids [Slime] is usually the first thing they name that they’re really excited about playing with it and adding their own color.”

This is the third year that Bortz has worked the event.

“I’ve been a Maker since my freshman year,” Bortz said. “I was [originally] interested in coding, but it wasn’t offered [as a class] back then. Now it’s an actual class at the high school.”

“This is what the future looks like,” Tracy Smoyer said. “The concept that all these things are connected is how learning could and should be.”

The mother of three young children rejects the rigid teaching practices of the past where students were confined to their seats filling in worksheets “Learning has got to be about moving around and realizing that everything is a part of something else,” she said.

Fifth grader Mikaila Crawford enjoyed the event.

“Just the fact that I’m in the high school is awesome and really cool,” she said.

“When these kids become freshmen in a few years, they’ll remember what they learned in the lab,” Tracy Smoyer said.

Bleiler couldn’t agree more.

“They’ll benefit, when they come up to the high school. Maybe this will be even bigger when they come up here,” Bleiler said.