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American Academy

Newsletter Archive - May 4, 2020

May 4, 2020

Dear American Academy Parents,
I hope you and your family are safe and healthy as we start this new month!
In this edition of our STEM Newsletter we are sharing a couple tips for dealing with "Zoom Fatigue" as well as our weekly STEM Project ideas and an ongoing reference to our department's communication plan for the remainder of the school year. As always, the projects linked in this Newsletter are optional - if you have some time and would like to engage your children's minds with some STEM learning, please check these projects out (and let us know how it goes!)

Coping with Staying at Home

Much of the world is conducting business via video conference these days thanks to the miracle of ever-improving technology. While none of these tools are perfect, this period of forced social distancing and isolation would be significantly more challenging without them.
In this brave new virtual business world, a new malady has arisen: Zoom Fatigue. We are all learning a brand-new skill and way of communicating with each other while also living through a global pandemic. Communicating with other humans is challenging on the best of days, and it turns out we have a harder time decoding body language and facial expressions through a screen. If it takes even more energy than usual to just have a conversation with a co-worker, it makes sense that we would be very tiring to have several video meetings in a day. Even fun events like Happy Hours or family game nights quickly feel just like another exhausting meeting.
How can you avoid some of this exhaustion? If possible, request or schedule some meetings or conversations to be held without the video component. Just reducing your visibility in a meeting can lessen the stress. Alternatively, plan short transition periods between your video calls. Use these periods to "relax" and bring your stress level back down to normal before your next meeting. Listen to a favorite song or podcast, read an article, or get some movement into your life by stretching, going to get a drink of water, or walking outside to enjoy the sunshine and fresh air. For more details on and recommendations for combating Zoom Fatigue, see this article from the BBC.

Weekly STEM Project Ideas - Optional 

This week alongside our typical "hands-on" STEM activities we are also sharing computer science ideas courtesy of Girls Who Code. Enjoy!


  • Toddler/Pre-School
    • Build a Dinosaur Nest! This low-prep activity allows your child to get creative and have fun with science and engineering! Share photos of your child with their dinosaur's nest if you have time - we'd love to see their minds hard at work!
  • Kindergarten/1st Grade
    • Build an Outdoor Stick Maze! Get your kids designing, planning, and working together on a fun activity that can last as long as you need!
    • Make a Binary Bracelet!  Learn about binary and practice some coding skills in this creative, unplugged activity! This is a great way to work some computer science into your young child's day. To access instructions, follow the link and scroll down to the Stay Positive Binary Bracelets activity.


  • 2nd/3rd Grade
    • Build a Bird Feeder! Practice your child's powers of observation (just like a scientist!) to watch birds and design a feeder! Then, wait and watch to see if any birds find the snack left for them!
    • Build a Drawing Program! Practice computer science skills and algorithmic thinking with your child in this "unplugged" coding activity. For instructions, follow the link and scroll down the page to the Algorithmic Artist Game activity.


  • 4th/5th Grade
    • Build a Water Filter! Safe, clean drinking water is something we take for granted, but that's not true for much of the world. Using a few supplies, your children can build a water filtration device and then experiment with different materials to see what works best!
    • Tell a Digital Story! Program a digital story using Scratch and share an uplifting, happy, or important story in a fun, new way! This is a great way to engage creative children in learning computer science skills. For instructions, follow the link and scroll down to the Digital Storyteller activity.
  • Middle School
    • Build a Rubber Band Rover! Use cardboard and some other household items to build a Mars Rover vehicle - and try to make it go as fast and far as possible! (Maybe a few of them will even miss the Arduino-powered Rovers they built in 6th grade STEM at AA!)
    • Share Your Skills! Build a website to share any skill you have - from braiding your hair, applying makeup, solving a math problem, flip a bottle, to sharing some dance moves. This is a fun way to learn about HTML and CSS! For instructions, follow the link and scroll down to the Skillshare/Share Your Skillz activity.
  • High School
    • Build a Chatbot! This activity teaches students to build a Python-powered chatbot and learning about community outreach and support at the same time! (Follow the link, then scroll about halfway down the page to the Can I Help You? (Chatbot with Python) activity.

STEM Extracurricular Activities Updates

Thank you all for being so patient as we worked through calculations and considerations for refunds for our spring STEM ECAs. It was a big job that involved a lot of people, but all ECA refunds for STEM ECAs have been processed. These refunds were all less than $100, so you may not notice when they hit your account. If you're expecting a refund, please check the account for the credit card you have on file in the School Store. If you haven't seen any refunds come through by Monday May 4, please let me know!
As a quick note, here's how we processed our refunds:
  • Spring STEM ECAs that had students registered but had not yet met with kids have been refunded in full.
  • Spring STEM ECAs that had students registered and successfully held all scheduled sessions with students before Spring Break will receive no refund since the class(es) finished as planned.
  • Spring STEM ECAs that had students registered and began meeting with students but did not hold all scheduled sessions have received partial refunds. You should receive the amount you paid for the club minus prorated fees, supplies, and teacher/staff pay,

Thank you again for your patience and flexibility! And extra special thanks to a few of you who instead chose to donate your refund back to the school. We appreciate you so much!
Our STEM department is currently hard at work to plan out our ECA calendar for next year, so stay tuned! We look forward with hope and optimism to seeing your children in class with us in the fall!

What to Expect from STEM During Remote Learning (weekly reprint for those who may have missed it)

Please be sure your children are focusing on their math, reading, and writing work as their first priority! These skills are the bedrock foundation of everything else, and the time you spend on them during the day should reflect that. I know many of you are already overwhelmed with the idea of working from home, staying on top of the news, and helping your children navigate “remote learning” for the first time. During times like these it is essential to identify the most pressing priorities, commit to those, and allow tasks that are less imperative to be ignored if necessary. 
Due to the structure of our STEM calendar, there are a few classes of students who have not yet received their full “allotment” of STEM for the school year. As the STEM portion of a STEAM-focused school, we want to be sure that families at least have easily accessible options for providing their children with some STEM learning and skills while everyone is home.
  • Weekly STEM Newsletter to all AA families (this is the first!)
    • Emailed and available through AA's STEM Website each week
    • List of optional recommended STEM projects for students of all ages (toddlers through high school)
    • No grades will be given for work completed
    • Reach out to STEM Instructors with questions or to show off your child's work - we miss the students and would love to see!
    • You will be able to access past newsletters through the STEM Newsletters - Archive section of our website in case you run out of things to keep your kids occupied!


Students who have not yet received their full "allotment" of STEM class for the school year:

  • 2nd graders at all campuses
    • Had not yet begun their STEM unit for the year when we left
    • Will receive optional weekly STEM assignments instead of Science assignments
    • Parents - look for a weekly email from your campus STEM instructor (Julie Weiss - CP, Jennifer Wray - LM, Linda Martinez - MB) with details
    • Focus on math, reading, and writing first - move on to STEM only if your family has the time to do so
    • No grades will be given, but instructors will help and support as needed (and would LOVE to see any work or finished products!)

  • Kindergarten and 1st grade at Lincoln Meadows; Kindergarten at Motsenbocker**
    • Started STEM units but didn't finish
    • Will receive optional weekly STEM assignments instead of Science assignments
    • Parents - look for emails from your campus STEM instructor (Melissa Jones - LM, Chris Todd - MB) with details
    • Focus on math, reading, and writing first - move on to STEM only if your family has the time to do so
    • No grades will be given, but instructors will help and support as needed (and would LOVE to see any work or finished products!

  • 8th graders at all campuses
    • Finished Physical Science at the end of Trimester 2 and moved into Engineering for Trimester 3
    • Students will receive daily emails from their Engineering teachers (Sitzmann and McKenzie - CP, Michels and Bertoson - LM, Baldwin and Vargo - MB) with details
    • Expect 2 - 2.5 hours per week to be spent on Engineering assignments (if your child has more time available and wants to spend more of it improving their STEM project/product, that's encouraged - but if all they have is 2 hours a week, that is enough!)
    • Parents - watch Infinite Campus for assignment due dates; if you'd like to be copied on the student email, let your child's instructors know!
    • Work will receive grades but rubrics will be adjusted to match remote learning conditions
    • If your child is struggling (or doesn't have enough to do), reach out to your child's instructors for help
If you have any questions or concerns about STEM education and Remote Learning, please don't hesitate to reach out! And if your family does complete any of the projects, we would LOVE to see a few pictures - we really do miss our students!