Grade 3

…preparing young students for careers that don’t even exist yet!

Science – Technology – Engineering – Mathematics

stem graphpaper

S.T.E.M. Education is a federal initiative:

(1) to secure America’s leadership in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics; and, (2) to identify promising strategies for strengthening the education that leads to S.T.E.M. careers.


Allendale Columbia Lower School S.T.E.M. Teachers:  


Donna Chaback


Sue Sorrentino






CURRENT S.T.E.M. Units of Study 2018-19:               *Unit Highlights & Photos BELOW

  1. Structures and Forces Unit – completed
    • Simple and Compound Machines
    • Rigid versus Flexible Structures
    • Forces (Balanced versus Unbalanced; Compression versus Tension)
    • Forms of Energy
    • Hands-on Design Labs:
      • Applications and Construction of Rigid versus Flexible Structures
      • Distinguishing between 1st, 2nd, & 3rd Class Levers
      • Innovating solutions with incorporating motorized structures
  2. The Water Cycle – completed
    • Using the Science Court software program, students are engaged in a humorous courtroom drama with collaboratively completing lesson labs and activities for investigating:
      • the difference between condensation and evaporation,
      • the presence of water vapor in the air,
      • comparing rates of evaporation and water surface areas
  3. Optics – completed
    • Communicating with Light: Morse Code
    • Light Waves: color, frequency
    • Digital versus Analog Signals
    • LED Programming on a Microcontroller:
      • Students continue their learning in STEM-Focused OPTICS with programming LEDs on the SparkFun Digital Sandbox microcontroller using Ardublock, a graphical version of the popular Arduino programming language.
        • Clear Program, LED Blinking
        • Programming Code Chunks, Digital Outputs
        • Output Visual Morse Code
  4. Navigation Engineering: Programming the Parallax S3 Robot – current unit of study
    • Students learn about programming procedures and subroutines as well as, incorporating the use of loops to use with solving for the particular programming challenges they are posed.
    • Taking into account speed, time, and direction students specifically program point turns, pivot turns, or curve turns. This value-added programming feature, among others, provides the opportunity for students to initially learn some of the more complex programming concepts involved in navigation engineering.


Below are highlights of some of our 3rd Grade, S.T.E.M. learning experiences throughout the years:

This webpage highlights some of our exciting Lower School S.T.E.M. learning experiences – including our current year programs, new programs in development and testing, as well as the units of study we typically provide our students. Collaborating with our numerous and global, collegiate and corporate partners, our S.T.E.M. programs continue to dynamically evolve each year with providing innovative and authentic learning experiences for our young students.

Optics / Photonics

With our years of experience in S.T.E.M. curriculum development and with Rochester, NY now designated the Photonics Hub of America, the Lower School S.T.E.M. Team has been requested to develop a comprehensive, grade-by-grade, Elementary Program in Optics. Working in collaboration with several university and corporate partners, we are excited to be engaging our Lower School S.T.E.M. students with actively field-testing our new Optics Programs, participating in our hands-on labs, and with also reporting out results and recommendations to corporate product development teams as well as, university level, Optics Departments – providing our students with authentic and relevant learning experiences!

Life Sciences

The Water Cycle: Science Court Videos and Hands-on LABS

Science Ct_1

Students are highly engaged in a mix of animated courtroom drama sequences and hands-on science experiments. In a typical Science Court episode, a lawsuit or criminal action takes place based upon a specific scientific point. As the case unfolds, the characters in the trial use humor to highlight scientific misconceptions and model good scientific practice as lawyers for each side of the dispute battle over a case and present their arguments. The trial is divided into four parts as the court commentator reviews the facts with asking students to predict outcomes based on trial information as well as the cooperative, hands-on follow-up activities and labs.  Unit concepts include the three states of water, the difference between condensation and evaporation, and the stages of the water cycle. Investigative activities included demonstrating condensation and the presence of water vapor in the air, comparing rates of evaporation and water surface areas, and so on.




Life Cycle Unit: the Painted Lady Butterfly

…Life Cycle of the Painted Lady Butterfly: Butterfly Unit LABS (individual culture vessels & specimens) – students observe, collect data, document and diagram results, and make predictions on the growth, metamorphosis, and development of butterflies throughout its life cycle. Each student prepares a culture vessel with medium (nutrients) and then gently transfers their chosen larva into their own culture vessel, and so on…

Gr3_Butterfly Larvae

Applied Sciences / Engineering / Programming

Hands-On Design & Innovation Labs: Structures & Forces


3rd grade students diagram and label the differences that distinguish 1st, 2nd, and 3rd class levers!






Students continue their learning about motions, forces, transfer of energy, and the principles of simple machines. Working in teams of two, students participate in hands-on investigative labs with constructing both rigid and flexible structures and with identifying the specific characteristics of each type of structure. Further investigations include modifying structures from being flexible to rigid and vice versa along with also determining the different parts of levers (effort, load, and fulcrum) incorporated into each of their models. Students are also challenged to innovate solutions for motorizing their structures. Throughout this very hands-on, problem-solving unit, teamwork and collaborative skills are further developed.

…Unit of Study – Programming the Parallax S2 Robot




Our 3rd grade S.T.E.M. students did a great job with programming the S2 Floor Robot from Parallax, Inc. We had the pleasure of personally meeting the President of the company, Ken Gracey, when we were in Washington, D.C. at the 2014 Annual Forum of the International Association for S.T.E.M. Leaders. After trying out the S2 robot, along with considering the years of extensive robotics programming experiences of our young S.T.E.M. students, we became interested in bringing this Middle School-level robotics program to our Lower School students. After further evaluations and, initial field-testing the S2 robot, we developed our 3rd grade curriculum and successfully implemented this new course offering in navigation engineering.

In addition, we reported our classroom pilot-testing results and recommendations directly to Parallax, Inc., and…

fast-forward two more years…s3-robot

We again met Ken in Washington, D.C.!  

Ken updated us with incorporating our product recommendations with releasing the next generation model: the Parallax S3 Floor Robot.

…Classroom Pilot-Testing: the new generation, Parallax S3 Robot!




In the context of this graphical programming environment, students learn how to program procedures and sub-routines to use with solving for the particular programming challenges they are posed. A programming feature, we are especially excited about, is the capability to program robot navigation with taking into account speed, time, and direction when students are specifically programming point turns, pivot turns, or curve turns. This value-added programming feature, among others, will provide the opportunity for our young students to initially learn some of the more complex programming concepts they will be progressing on to in the next level, NXT Robotics System.

…Intermediate Innovation Engineering: integrating multiple robotics systems 

Re-purposing multiple robotics systems, electronic components, and the like, involving the design of interactive structures and smart robots programmed with sensors and actuators
In this completely individualized course, students use what they have learned in their second grade STEM Engineering Units with taking their skills to the next level, building and programming sophisticated and interactive structures & smart robots programmed with sensors and actuators. Using several LEGO Robotics Systems (including LEGO WeDo), students are challenged to design and build physical models incorporating different gear systems, pulley systems, motors, sensors, IR receivers, remote controls, and so on.
Students individually choose their own building and/or programming challenges, applying complex programming and high-level, mechanical concepts with further developing critical and creative thinking, STEM fluency, Innovative Literacy, Design Thinking, as well as problem-solving skills. If desired, students also have the option of initiating their own partnerships for collaboratively teaming on their projects. Sample innovative challenge: Design, construct and program a self-loading catapult triggered by a motion sensor.
Sample projects can be viewed in the video highlights from one of our 3rd Grade S.T.E.M. Spotlight Expo’s:


…Integrating Computer-Aided Design (CAD) + 3D Printing…

3D Printing_1_orig

For their Sound Unit final project, our 3rd grade STEM students each devised their own story behind an imaginary discovery of an ancient, musical instrument. Students documented details on the location of this discovery, the history and culture of the imagined community, as well as the general design and function of their musical instrument. Culminating this writing activity, the remaining Sound Unit classes resumed in the new Design and Innovation Lab housing the school 3D-printers. In the lab, students continued with further designing their “ancient musical instruments” with initially sketching and then diagramming, scaling, and providing specific measurements to be programmed using Tinkercad.

To get started on the next phase of this project, the students were provided class instruction on using the computer-aided design (CAD) programming software under the direction of the Lower School S.T.E.M. Team and in collaboration with Middle School Hybrid Learning Coordinator, Mr. Tony Tepedino. Students quickly grasped the programming concepts, were highly engaged with seeing their original designs evolve into actual CAD models, and did a great job with also assisting their classmates with design and programming suggestions.

Mr. Tepedino also demonstrated and explained the 3D-printing process as well as the design implications with ensuring structural integrity in the final, 3D-printed projects. Most exciting of all, our S.T.E.M. students were thrilled with the physical models they first imagined, then designed, programmed, and successfully 3D-printed!

3D Printing_2_text

3D Printing_3

3D Printing_4




In partnership with Alfred State College, REVTOS (a renewable energy training system) was placed on the Allendale Columbia campus for a period of three months. The REVTOS System is comprised of a 30′ x 5′ solar panel and a 30′ high wind turbine with a remote monitoring and data logging box located in the Lower School S.T.E.M. Lab. Students in grades K through 5 took full advantage of this system being on our campus with completing a variety of solar and wind power experiments and data collection.

Third graders studied about renewable and nonrenewable energy throughout their experimental labs demonstrating the different properties of reflection and absorption.





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