The Brilliance of STEM

STEM collaboration on solar cooker.

These type of activities help 21st century children have fun while they learn

The Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) teacher at James G. Brumfield Elementary, Lisa Testa, knows all about fun, educational activities for children. Testa who teaches pre-k through fifth grade students, is also a distinguished teacher, even nominated for the Agnes Meyers Award. Her passion for education spills into the classroom with a learning environment designed to teach in a playful and creative manner.

Testa stresses the activities she utilizes in class do help support SOLs, but more importantly engage children and reinforce the subject matter they are learning. “I see students developing strong problem solving skills and becoming better leaders because of the team experience they have,” shared Testa. “They utilize the 4 Cs: collaborating; communicating; creating (innovation); and critical thinking. STEM really is about the 21st century.” Testa also noted if students are able to develop a passion for STEM, they may pursue a related job in the future: “In my mind we do this at the lower grade levels on the easier, more basic level in order to develop that love and passion, which in turn will inspire them as they mature. What we do at the elementary level is just a building block.”

STEM is all about the engineering design process: ask, imagine, plan, create, and improve. Testa said, “The students learn it’s okay to make mistakes. They learn that it’s not always going to be right the first time and they develop ways to make it better for the next time.” Not only are critical thinking skills being developed, so are the students’ leadership skills.

Activities are not just crafts, they are purpose driven. “Making something which solves a problem, with a measurable outcome, and serves a purpose is what these activities are all about,” said Testa. Her example is a particular activity she completes with her class: “The kids have a real world problem to help solve with the squashed tomato challenge. The people in Nepal grow their tomatoes on a mountain, but sell them down the mountain at the market. The purpose of this challenge is to ask the kids what can they make to get the tomatoes from top to bottom in a timely manner without squishing them.” The students work together to find a method to a solution.

Cleaning an “oil spill”

So if you wish to provide similar fun tasks at home Testa suggested to ensure there is a purpose involved with each one; they are not just crafts. You may also turn STEM into STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and math) by adding a creative component into any activity, such as drawing a design on their project.


Classroom Items Always Welcomed

Mrs. Testa’s STEM classroom has a need for donated items during the school year. Brumfield Elementary is the only elementary school in the county which has a specific STEM teacher, and could always use support through donated items. Other local elementary schools may offer STEM activities, but those are typically conducted through individual homerooms or technology specialists. If you own a business, work for a business, or personally want to assist consider donating some items to support students as they learn well through hands-on activities in their classroom.

  • 3-D machine: Osmo or Sphero
  • cereal boxes
  • toilet paper and paper towel tubes
  • plastic/paper bags, shoe/shirt boxes
  • scrap pieces of cloth, bottle caps (like tops from dish soap Dawn – the pop up type)
  • plastic containers.

Additionally, classrooms will always accept donations of any yarn or string, craft sticks, rubber bands, construction paper, and more that you may have laying around your home that you no longer need or use. If you wish to donate items, James G. Brumfield’s mailing address is 550 Alwington Blvd, Warrenton and may be reached by phone at 540-422-7530.

Photos courtesy of Lisa Testa


Debbie Eisele
About Debbie Eisele 63 Articles
Debbie Eisele is a freelance writer and the Community Outreach Coordinator for Hero’s Bridge, a nonprofit serving older veterans. She lives in Warrenton with her husband and twin daughters.

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