When it comes to maths, science, and design, most middle school students recall only tests and textbooks. Few get the chance to be inspired by a theory transformed into concrete action that makes them go “Wow!” like sending a rocket into space, launching a water bottle thirty metres into the air, or creating a chemical reaction that blows clouds of foam from a tiny beaker.

As two passionate STEM enthusiasts, we wanted to do what we knew best: solve this problem. And just like that, STEM Week was born for five days in March.

The project began with a small buzzing team of high school students. Over seventy ideas immediately flooded our spreadsheets, posters, and planners. Boring Friday lunchtimes were replaced by meetings where students built models, made colourful DNA streamers, crafted posters, and sketched out incredible showcases. STEM Week was to be a packaged experience of fun and learning, topped off with a STEM fair. But the process was far from perfect. Due to evolving COVID restrictions, the plans needed constant restructuring, but ideas always came to mind. With the help of the science, maths and design teachers, we finally split the activities into three workshop groups.

Middle school year groups explored different fields of STEM through hands-on activities in each of the sessions. Year 7 examined liquid nitrogen, Year 8 discovered that math can create art, and Year 9 witnessed a mini-truss bridge withstand the weight of an entire person, to name just
a few.

The students were amazed and their eyes were opened to a whole new side of learning. Why read an “electricity for kids” webpage when there is a real electrostatic Van de Graaff generator waiting for you in Ms. Smiley’s lab?

Almost every middle schooler surveyed at the end of STEM Week said they hoped to see it again next year. From “how to use simple turtle coding” to “eggs are strong because of their oval-like shape”, each student could say they had learned something new. We hope that their unmatched curiosity for STEM started with the week at ISL.

Gradient Issue #2: The magazine of the International School of Lausanne

In this edition, we explore how our community has coped during this special year to make the best of it. We also have a special section on multilingualism and how it can both benefit and challenge our students.