The STEM Panda Rescue

The STEM Panda Rescue
Posted on 11/28/2016
Panda Rescue

As a section of third graders eagerly entered the library at Fairview School, it wasn’t to check out books.  Instead, students took their places quickly on the floor huddled around Mr. Proctor, the elementary Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) instructor.  Working from his iPad, Mr. Proctor quickly engaged the students in the lesson, with the goal of creating and programing a rescue device.

Mr. Proctor explained to students that at times animals and people need to be rescued by helicopters for various reasons, including natural disasters like earthquakes and floods.  He also discussed how helicopters are used to drop supplies and food when necessary.  After the discussion, Mr. Proctor gave a short explanation to the students about the task of the day.  “Today you are going to be rescuing a panda.  The panda got caught in a Lego flood, and you are going to build a helicopter to pull the panda to safety,” said Proctor.  After showing a brief video of an actual horse being rescued, Mr. Proctor told the students that they would need to build, Bluetooth, and program their helicopter, with the additional challenge of adding a helicopter sound. 

Students got right to work and started their project utilizing Lego WeDo 2.0.  Working in pairs, Mr. Proctor encouraged the students to help their partners, double check their work and help find the necessary parts to complete the task.

Rachel and Addison were the first pair finished.  They completed all the steps and accomplished the challenge of adding the helicopter sound.  They didn’t stop there however.  They took their project to the next level.  “When we got done, we used our imagination,” said Addision.  They added a little house with food to protect the panda so it wouldn’t fall while it was being rescued.  Mr. Proctor told the pair that he was learning from them and would be able to add the additional challenge of creating housing for the panda for the next class. 

As Mr. Proctor walked from table to table, students excitedly showed him their completed projects and the capability of the helicopter to raise and lower the rescue cable.  It was clear that the students enjoyed their time in STEM, which happens once in a six-day cycle.  As the only elementary STEM teacher, Mr. Proctor travels to each elementary building and teaches nearly 1200 students in six days.  When asked about the position, Mr. Proctor replied, “I enjoy the position immensely.  It is really a dream job.  I get to be on the cutting edge, and the school is very supportive of what I do.  In his third year of teaching at Spencer Schools, Mr. Proctor has built the program from the ground up as elementary STEM was new to Spencer when he started. 

As the class period was ending, and most students were finished, Mr. Proctor told the students to take their projects apart and sort the parts back into the trays, to which the response wasn’t very positive.  Upon asking Hailey why she didn’t like taking the project apart, she replied, “That means it is almost time to leave.”