This is the news page for STEM news and information. The STEM department will be posting our updates here throughout the year.
Subscribe to the STEM News
Choose how YOU want to stay in touch with STEM activities at American Academy! Parents can select the Subscribe button on this page to opt-in and receive STEM news updates by email. Additionally, by going to Calendar (on the menu) > Show all events > Subscribe parents can add the STEM calendar events to a personal calendar and receive updates when we make a change. Or you can simply visit these pages to see what's happening any time. The choice is yours.
Be aware that as of September 4, 2017, mail merge "newsletters" will no longer go out from the STEM department to the Castle Pines or Motsenbocker families. After September 18, Lincoln Meadows will no longer receive STEM newsletters. Rather than sending you information in an email, we will only use the website for routine updates and classroom information; so please subscribe or check back regularly to be "in the know!"
NOTE: If you subscribe to more than American Academy news page, you will receive all updates in no more than one email, once per day. If there are no updates to from any grade-level or specials news pages, you will not receive any updates email.
Updates for October 19, 2017
- Play-Well TEKnologies LEGO Course for Grades 3 - 5 (STEM Challenge with LEGOs) - Now Open!
Power up your engineering skills with Play-Well TEKnologies and tens of thousands of LEGO® parts! Apply
real-world concepts in physics, engineering, and architecture through engineer-designed projects such as: Bulldozers, Hovercrafts, Hot Air Balloons, and the Great Wall of China! Design and build as never before, and explore your craziest ideas in a supportive environment.
We are excited to announce that we are offering a version of the very popular Play-Well LEGO course for older students! This class will consist of 6 sessions beginning the week of November 6th and running through the week of December 20th (we will not have class the week of Thanksgiving). Please visit the School Store to sign up - the link is live now! This popular course often fills quickly, so sign up soon! Note that if your family attends Lincoln Meadows, you are welcome to sign up for the Motsenbocker club. There are also plans to expand to our third campus soon, so stay tuned!
- 8th Grade Engineering Open Lab Dates
The 8th grade students at the Castle Pines and Motsenbocker campuses are hard at work planning their final product for their Engineering class! We are so excited to see what they come up with! We have found that often teams will need a little extra time to perfect the workings of their product, so we set up Open Lab sessions for them to stay after school (3:30 - 5:00) and get some of this work done if needed. These sessions are optional, but to keep the kids safe and accounted for we ask that students stay for the entire session. Below are the planned dates for Castle Pines as well as Motsenbocker, but please note that students must sign up in the classroom in order to schedule a session - if no one is signed up, the Open Lab will be cancelled. Feel free to reach out to Melissa Sitzmann (CP) or Erin Lagreca (MB) with questions.
Castle Pines Tentative Open Lab Dates
- Tuesday 10/24, 3:30 - 5:00 pm
- Wednesday 10/25, 3:30 - 5:00 pm
- Wednesday 11/1, 3:30 - 5:00 pm
- Tuesday 11/7, 3:30 - 5:00 pm
- Wednesday 11/8, 3:30 - 5:00 pm
Motsenbocker Tentative Open Lab Dates
- Wednesday 10/25, 3:30 - 5:00 pm
- Wednesday 11/1, 3:30 - 5:00 pm
- Tuesday 11/7, 3:30 - 5:00 pm
- Wednesday 11/8, 3:30 - 5:00 pm
- Motsenbocker 1st Grade STEM Unit - Started This Week!
We are mixing things up in first grade! This week we began looking into the world of Chemical Engineering - more specifically, how they can take raw materials to create something new. Taking a little of this, and a little of that, students will put the Engineering Design Process into motion to create "quality" Play-Doh. Things are messy right now, but at the end of it all, we are hoping students have mixed things together just right. Contact instructor Chris Todd with questions!
October 12, 2017
- Upcoming Mandatory STEM Trip Informational Meetings
There are still two middle school STEM trips coming up during the 2017-18 year. 6th grade students from the Motsenbocker and Lincoln Meadows campuses may join us in traveling to Olympic National Park in early April, and 8th grade students may accompany us to Costa Rica in early May. We are updating our registration procedures to streamline the process and allow our staff to more efficiently handle three campuses, and as such these informational meetings are now mandatory. If you are at all interested in sending your child(ren) on these trips, we ask that at least one parent and the student attend a meeting. The meetings aren't campus-specific, so choose one that works for your family. For dates and more information, please click here.
- FIRST LEGO League, Junior
Do your kids love to build and program using LEGOs? If the answer is yes, then come join our team! Junior FIRST(R) LEGO(R) League captures young children's curiosity and directs it toward discovering the wonders of science and technology. With the help of middle school mentors, students will design and build a challenge-related model using LEGO WeDo 2.0 components, create a Show Me poster and practice presentation skills, explore challenges facing today's scientists, discover real-world math and science applications, begin developing teamwork skills, choose to participate in expos and showcases, and engage in team activities guided by Jr.FLL Core Values. Participating students will receive team t-shirts with the team-selected name and design for competition day and beyond! The culminating regional Expo will be held in April at our Motsenbocker campus for friends and family to enjoy! Registration for our Castle Pines campus will be open on November 6th; details for the Motsenbocker and Lincoln Meadows campuses will be coming soon!
- STEM Extracurriculars
We are constantly reevaluating our extracurricular offerings and trying to respond to student demand. This means great things will be available for your kids, but also that we don't have a full list to publish! Please continue to subscribe to this page - we will advertise clubs and other extracurricular activities here around the time they are set to be published in the School Store. This fall/winter we will be releasing LEGO and Sphero ECAs for elementary students, so check back soon! Feel free to contact Katie Dutton if you have a specific request or idea for an extracurricular activity.
- Primary STEM Units (KindiePrep - 1st Grade)
Lincoln Meadows Full-Day Kindergarten
If you have a full day Kindergarten student at Lincoln Meadows, you've likely already heard a little about PLAY STEM, their first exploratory STEM unit of the year! In this unit we introduce students to simple machines and their mechanical advantages as well as their usefulness in everyday life. Students have a chance to explore using oversized wooden models and experience physical science kinesthetically by performing tasks and playing games using the models. The unit ends with a look into the world of Rube Goldberg and his inventive contraptions utilizing simple machines. PLAY STEM lays a terrific foundation for understanding of the Engineering Design Process and the fundamental science that allows us to engineer simple solutions to problems! Please talk to your children about what they learned in this unit and continue to point out examples of simple machines being used in innovative ways! While this unit was only one week long, their second unit (for Lincoln Meadows this will occur starting after Thanksgiving) will focus on Mechanical Engineering and last 5 weeks.
Motsenbocker 1st Grade
How do chefs arrive at that perfect sugar cookie recipe? What are the variables in the problem, and how do you know if there is too much (or too little!) of something? In this 5 week unit students will have the opportunity to learn the fundamentals of Chemical Engineering (as well how to test and refine a solution) by making homemade Play-Doh and individual cakes. We wrap it all up with a talk from a local bakery about how they go through the same process in their shop! We are very careful about food allergies during this unit, but feel free to contact instructor Chris Todd with specific questions or concerns. Throughout the five weeks, please take the time to ask your first grader questions about what they are doing and learning - maybe even invite them into the kitchen to demonstrate how you go through the same process when you cook! Anything that can tie their learning to the stuff of "everyday" life will help it make a more lasting impact!
- 8th Grade STEMapalooza & Open House
The 8th grade students at the Castle Pines and Motsenbocker campuses will be learning the details of their final project when they return from Fall Break! They will spend the rest of the trimester proposing, designing, creating, testing, and improving a solution to the assigned problem with their teams. This is a challenging portion of the class, especially as it exercises peer communication and problem-solving skills to a degree that few other classes or experiences do. Feel free to talk about the project and the struggles your student experiences, and encourage them to have patience, talk to their teammates often, and remember that the most successful groups of people listen to each other and compromise! We learn so much when we push through difficulty and frustration to achieve something great - continue to remind your child of the importance of learning these lessons now when the stakes are low, and how much better prepared they will be than so many peers the next time they face a challenge!
The culminating activity for the 8th grade Engineering unit is STEMapalooza, a Shark Tank-style competition followed by an Open House and awards ceremony. Parents, friends, and family are welcome to join us for the Open House and awards ceremony at the appropriate campus! More details will be forthcoming, but please know that this event is a critical part of reflecting on the lessons and experience and supporting their team, and meaningful participation is part of their final project grade. Also, if you happen to work in a STEM field and are interested in serving as a judge for this event, please email STEM Director Katie Dutton for more information.
8th Grade STEMapalooza Dates:
- Thursday November 16, 8:00 am - 2:00 pm at Castle Pines (Open House at noon, awards at 1:00 pm)
- Friday November 17, 8:00 am - 2:00 pm at Motsenbocker (Open House at noon, awards at 1:00 pm)
September 28, 2017
- LEGO Donation Drive
Do you constantly find yourself wondering what to do with the unused LEGOs taking up space in your home? Are you looking for an easy way to find a new home for these little bits of plastic? We have a solution - bring in any LEGO pieces you wish to donate to your child's campus! We will be collecting any and all LEGOs you want to part with in the first floor STEM lab at each campus. Bring donations to the front office, and they will call the appropriate STEM teacher to come collect them. For more information contact your campus elementary STEM teacher: Julie Weiss is at Castle Pines, Josh Collier is at Motsenbocker, and Jennifer Wray is at Lincoln Meadows.
- 4th Grade STEM Units begin Wednesday, October 4
We are so excited to welcome the fourth graders to their first STEM unit, beginning next week at all three campuses! During their regularly scheduled science period, students will instead be brought down to the elementary STEM lab in the library and get their hands on some of the most exciting technology in the school. They will learn about science, technology, math, and the engineering design process as they delve into circuitry using littleBits! This is an incredible unit, and the kids will love designing and creating their own circuits to accomplish meaningful tasks! This unit will run daily from October 4 - October 26, though we will obviously not meet during Fall Break. Be sure to talk to your kids and ask them what they're learning during these STEM exploration units - we are endlessly amazed by what our kids come up with, and we would love for them to share that learning with you as well!
- Science Club at Lincoln Meadows - Now Available in the School Store
Fizzing, popping, bubbling, and erupting are all sure to bring "oohs" and "ahhs" in this year's Science Club classes! Participating second and third grade students will engage in highly engaging, interactive hands-on experiments and activities. Students will meet Wednesday mornings from 7:10 - 8:00 am. Meetings will begin October 18th and will run weekly until December 13. The $120 fee covers the cost of the experiment equipment and materials, a lab coat for your child to keep, and a tie-dye/geyser science party at the end! Registration is open on the School Store now - this popular club fills up quickly, so get your child signed up while you can!
- Intro to STEM with LEGOs - New Version Coming Soon!
As a part of our effort to continue to increase the number of extracurricular activities available to our elementary students, we are going to be launching a new version of this popular course beginning late this fall. This course will change each trimester, so you can sign your kids up as often as you wish and they are assured to learn and have fun with our teachers using LEGOs and other materials! More details will be released as we get closer to the start date, so be sure you are subscribed to this page to get updates!
- Emergency Communications - Please Opt In
We have a new emergency communications system this year, and the school is still trying to get everyone opted in so you can all receive emergency messaging when we send it. We will use this system to communication with you if there is every a serious emergency, but we also use it to notify you about lightning dismissals and school closings and delays as they occur. Think snow days!
In order to receive these messages, you need to opt in to the system by completing a quick online Emergency Messaging Opt In form! Please opt in today so that you can start receiving messages as soon as possible. The system updates every Friday, so if you opt in this week, you will start receiving messages next week.
- Infinite Campus "Missing" Notices
We are aware that many students are getting more than one "missing assignment" notices emailed home for the same assignment. This is very frustrating for all involved, but no one more than the students and parents it impacts. Please know that American Academy has been working with Douglas County (who has in turn been working with the Infinite Campus software engineers) to create a fix. Unfortunately it may be January before this is really fixed. We apologize for the chaos this creates - in the meantime, please be aware that you can check your student's schedule to verify which course/section they are actually attending and ignore any emailed notices for other courses/sections.
September 14, 2017
- Middle school Engineering Certificate extracurricular classes are here!
A long-term goal for the STEM department has been participating in a middle school robotics competition. We are pleased to be piloting FIRST Tech Challenge, an extension of FIRST LEGO League for 7 - 12 grade students that is engineering based. Mr. Collier has past experience with this organization and thus we will be piloting this program at the Motsenbocker campus. Active, purposeful participation in this club will earn students 2 Engineering Certificate credits - and allow them to test their skills against area middle and high school students! Castle Pines students are welcome to make arrangements with Mr. Collier to join the club, so interested 7th and 8th grade students at either campus can participate (but all club meetings will be held at the Motsenbocker campus). FTC is live in the School Store now!
Our Castle Pines 6th - 8th grade students are welcome to join us for The Gift of Design! Students will use their ingenuity, creativity, tech skills, and engineering lab tools to create and take home at least four unique, personalized gifts just in time for the holiday season. They will create designs to be laser engraved, 3D printed, soldered, and programmed! Mr. Baldwin will be teaching this class, and it is live in the School Store now! Look in the Engineering Certificate Program section.
Any Motsenbocker or Castle Pines 8th grade students who need an additional Engineering Certification credit are welcome to join us for the 8th Grade Engineering Cert Makeup Class! This is a one-time only class offered Saturday September 30. Students will be able to complete a project to fulfill the requirements and earn that extra credit! This is live in the School Store now under the Engineering Certificate Program section.
- Future Middle School STEM Trips
Just a quick planning note for parents. We have two more trips coming this year - 6th grade students from Motsenbocker and Lincoln Meadows will be traveling to Olympic National Park in early April, and 8th graders will be traveling to Costa Rica in early May. Look for more information about the 6th grade trip coming in late October/early November, and Costa Rica after Thanksgiving.
September 7, 2017
- STEM Extracurricular Activities are coming soon to the School Store
Our middle school ECAs will be posted in the School Store in the next couple of days, as will the trimester 1 Play-Well Teknologies' run "Intro to STEM with LEGOs" class for K-2 at the CP and MB campuses. (More age groups are coming, as are opportunities for Lincoln Meadows, so stay tuned!) These courses are excellent ways to expose your children to STEM-related fields and activities outside of class, and are all designed/selected to enhance their classroom experiences! Head on over to the School Store to check out what is currently available, and check back often to see what's been added!
- 5th Grade STEM Units begin Monday, September 11
Beginning Monday 9/11, 5th graders at all three campuses will begin their first STEM rotation. During science class, students will be escorted to the library STEM lab to learn more about engineering, problem solving, critical thinking, growth mindset, and...SPHERO ROBOTS! These fun, dynamic tools can be paired with an iPad, allowing students to learn, apply, and improve coding and problem solving skills. This unit will run daily September 11 - September 29. Please note that at Lincoln Meadows this unit will include both 5th and 6th grade students.