Grade 4

…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. Space PBL  – completed
    • Driving Question: If you were tasked with creating a civilization on another planet, what would you need to do in order to make colonization possible?
    • Students study the Solar System including Planet 9, Planet 10, and the Kuiper Belt
    • Students increase their knowledge of the Moon by learning about the Apollo missions, the rock cycle, and the lunar landscape
    • Students learn about Space Pioneers of Today by comparing and contrasting the philosophies, progress, and goals of Musk, Bezos, and Branson
    • Student-led labs teach about 8 life support systems so that the students can incorporate them into their space colony
    • Students have the choice to either research a space topic of their choosing or, create their own physical models of a space colony
  2. Scratch Programming – completed
    • Students learn advanced programming concepts for designing their own video games:
      • conditionals
      • sensing
      • broadcast and receive
      • incorporating variables
      • programming multiple inputs and outputs
  3. Navigation Engineering Unit: LEGO NEXT Robotics – current unit of study
    • Students are provided a comprehensive, structured, and systematic sequence of building & programming modules in structural design and robot navigation, infused with engineering principles and professional practices, with solving for mission challenges on tournament field mats and, with implementing iterative development & testing.
    • Course objectives include: effective Chassis and Attachment Design concepts, Robot Navigation and Manipulation using sensors, programming multiple Switches inside of Repeat Loops, and so on.


Below are highlights of some of our 4th 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!

Applied Sciences / Engineering / Programming

Co-Spaces Virtual Reality System

CoSpaces Edu provides students a large library of objects, characters, and environments to animate by programming using the coding tool, Blockly. Creations can then be experienced in mobile VR using a cardboard headset and the companion app.

Navigation Engineering Unit:  LEGO NXT Robotics


Throughout this hands-on unit, students are provided a comprehensive, structured, and systematic sequence of building & programming modules in structural design and robot navigation, infused with engineering principles and professional practices, with solving for mission challenges on tournament field mats and, with implementing iterative development & testing. Course objectives include: effective Chassis and Attachment Design concepts, Robot Navigation and Manipulation using sensors, programming multiple Switches inside of Repeat Loops, and so on.


Project-Based Learning Unit

Determining the Ecological Biodiversity of Allendale Columbia

DRIVING QUESTION:  How can we, as fourth graders, determine the ecological biodiversity of Allendale Columbia?

Project-Based Learning with 4th & 5th Grades

Forensic Science Unit











Toshiba ExploraVision STEM Competition 2017


About ExploraVision

More than just a student science competition.

Since its inception in 1992, more than 350,000 students from across the United States and Canada have participated in Toshiba/NSTA ExploraVision. It’s a fun and engaging program that can inspire a lifelong love of science, technology and innovation for students and teachers alike.

What is ExploraVision?

The ExploraVision competition for K-12 students engages the next generation in real world problem solving with a strong emphasis on STEM. ExploraVision challenges students envision and communicate new technology 20 years in the future through collaborative brainstorming and research of current science and technology.

ExploraVision is a science competition that goes beyond the typical student science competition and into what it takes to bring ideas to reality. A teacher will sponsor and lead his/her students as they work in groups of 2 – 4 to simulate real research and development. A teacher will guide his or her students as they pick a current technology, research it, envision what it might look like in 20 years, and describe the development steps, pros & cons, and obstacles. Past winners have envisioned technologies ranging from a hand-held food allergen detector to a new device to help people who have lost limbs regain movement in real time.

All 4th grade students at Allendale Columbia School chose their topics, formed teams, and completed the project requirements as detailed below. The final projects were submitted in early February.


Project Submission Requirements:

I. Abstract; An abstract of no more than 150 words that summarizes the proposed future technology and other relevant information must proceed other project components. The Abstract should be on a separate page and does not count as part of the Description components

II. Description; A project Description section does not exceed 11 pages and may be combination of text and art work. It must include the following section with heading clearly labeled and be in the following order:

  1. Present Technology*: An overview of the present form of the technology including scientific principles involved in its functioning. A problem definition or limitation of this present technology that you address in your ExploraVision project.
  2. History: Research and description of the history of the technology from its inception.
  3. Future Technology: Description of the team’s vision for what this technology would be like in 20 years, including scientific principles involved in developing the technology.
  4. Breakthroughs*: Research and description of breakthroughs that are necessary to make the future technology design a reality. Description of why this future technology doesn’t exist today. (Choose one of your required breakthroughs and describe an investigation that would have to be planned and carried out to test your ExploraVision project. If possible, include the kind of data or measurements that would be collected in the investigation.)
  5. Design Process*: Description of three alternative ideas of features the team considered for their project. The ideas and features should be directly related to the project. Describe why the team rejected each feature and idea in favor of the ones in the submitted technology. Describe how your future technology feature is better than the rejected design feature.
  6. Consequences*: Description of recognition that all technologies have positive and negative consequences including the potential positive and negative consequences of the new technology on society.

III. Bibliography; A list of all sources and references used in researching the chosen technology. Sources must be clearly labeled and include title, author, publisher, and copyright date. Footnotes are encouraged, but not required. The Bibliography is not counted as part of the 11-page limit for the Description section.

IV. Sample Web Pages*; Team members must draw five sample web pages that communicate and promote their future technology vision. Web pages may be hand-drawn or computer-generated (e.g., powerpoint) and may include text, pictures, photographs and diagrams. They should relate to material presented in the written description and illustrate the attributes of the chose technology. One web page should be devoted to a model or visual representation of the technology that could be used to create a prototype for display. The model should help others visualize the design and communicate design features. Include a description of limitation s of the model. No need to create an actual website or a prototype untill a team become a Regional winner.

Project-Based Learning with 4th & 5th Grades

Programming Drone Aerial Navigation

Drone Logo Image2

In a culminating event, young students “stretched their wings” with programming drone aerial navigation as part of an Elementary STEM PBL Unit. Project-Based Learning (PBL) entails a collaborative learning experience with students working in teams on long-term, multidisciplinary projects that are structured around real-world, relevant, and probing questions. Collaboratively facilitated by their STEM and homeroom teachers, fourth and fifth grade students at Allendale Columbia School have been participating in this joint PBL Unit since the beginning of the school year.

This was an amazing teaching and learning experience for everyone, and we invite you to peruse through the steps along our PBL journey as portrayed in the images below…

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Game and Animation Programming using Scratch


Project requirements include programming multiple levels for computer games and interactive simulations as well as programming variables for score-keeping and other applications. Students also learn to program official game/simulation instructions, sounds, and animated effects.


Upon completion of their final course projects, Game and Animation students from the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) field-test our students’ computer games they have programmed. For the last part of their visit, the college students shared the innovative computer games they are currently developing including some of their specific lines of code our students were mutually conversant on.

2016 DuPont Challenge:

For the DuPont Challenge, students work in teams of four with choosing a specific global problem to solve for. The specific topics chosen this year include:

(1) developing the best way to plant milkweed for yielding optimal results in an attempt to help the drastically dwindling population of monarch butterflies;

(2) devising alternative ways to grow food with the shrinking availability of land coupled with an increasing global population;

(3) innovating a way to make wind turbines safer for wildlife (since it is estimated that wind turbines are responsible for the death of 500,000 birds and bats each year); and,

(4) investigating the feasibility of Allendale Columbia School going solar to reduce its carbon footprint.



Final Projects have been completed and submitted:

Food Project

Save the Monarchs!

Solar Panel

Wonderous Wind Power

Follow-Up to Wondrous Wind Turbine DuPont Challenge:

Student Team Initiates Exciting School Partnership with Vortex Bladeless


For a following, Project-Based Learning (PBL) unit of study, student teams (of four) began extensive research with identifying a specific global problem to solve for as active participants in the 2016 DuPont Challenge.

Revisiting their learning about wind power, this team of students discovered how dangerous wind turbines are for wildlife since it is estimated that wind turbines are responsible for the deaths of 500,000 birds and bats each year. As a result of their findings, the students identified their PBL driving question:

Is it possible to harness the wind without hurting wildlife?

Slide 2 of final DuPont Challenge project submission

Slide 2 of final DuPont Challenge project submission

Next, students brainstormed some initial ideas on how to solve for this real world issue:

Slide 3 of final DuPont Challenge project submission

Slide 3 of final DuPont Challenge project submission

After brainstorming some possible solutions, students researched the feasibility and implications of the specific ideas they came up with. However, the team soon found out…


Slide 4 of final DuPont Challenge project submission

Instead of giving up on solving for this real world problem, the team of students persevered with researching other innovative ideas. Eventually, the team stumbled upon an isolated image of a bladeless wind turbine which piqued their interest. With no references available on this intriguing image, the students dug deeper to uncover more information on the device, its creator, how it functions, etc. until finally identifying Vortex Bladeless, located in Madrid, as the start-up company behind this innovative technology.

Through further investigation, the students were also able to track down the direct contact information for one of the Co-CEO’s of the company, David Suriol. The team eagerly emailed David with sharing their strong interest in learning more about the Vortex Bladeless System. David responded almost immediately – and a new and exciting global partnership was formed!

With so many questions to ask, an initial Skype session was soon scheduled. Prior to the Skype meeting, the team prepared their specific list of questions for learning more about how the Vortex Bladeless System works, how the idea first developed, etc. Throughout the exciting Skype session, the team learned a lot about the system, how it efficiently functions with also being safe for wildlife, and how it is currently in final testing stages inside of actual wind tunnels.

Slide 6 of final DuPont Challenge project submission

Slide 6 of final DuPont Challenge project submission

 VIDEO covering product conception and development:

In addition, the students also learned that a company goal is to break into the U.S. marketplace. Learning about this particular company goal, the team voiced their strong interest in bringing this innovative technology to the Allendale Columbia School campus. In order to take the first step toward achieving this goal, the team scheduled a time to present their idea at the next meeting of the school Building & Grounds Committee. In preparation for this meeting, the students created a new presentation specifically for the committee, and on February 26th, students pitched their idea on why AC should consider the installation of the Vortex Bladeless System on the school campus. The presentation was enthusiastically received by the committee with requesting the students to take the next step with scheduling and actually leading a second Skype session with David and the entire Building & Grounds Committee for the purpose of further investigating the students’ exciting proposal.

Gr4_Skype with Committee

The students worked on developing a specific set of questions that were submitted to Co-CEO, David Suriol, prior to the next Skype session. Questions included requests for information on product specifications, shipping, installation, maintenance, and so on. The global Skype meeting, held on March 18th, was very informative and engaging for everyone involved. Plans are now in place with continuing this real world, collaborative partnership with the Madrid-based company offering to provide a first generation, one-hundred watts, Bladeless Vortex Wind Turbine to be installed on the AC school campus.

Working alongside the Building & Grounds Committee, the student team will be involved in all phases of installation, maintenance, data acquisition, and reporting back to C0-CEO, David Suriol of Vortex Bladeless. Further development and implementation of this technology will continue to evolve throughout this exciting global partnership!




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.

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




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