Grade 5

…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. VEX IQ Robotics: Navigation Engineering – completed
    • The Engineering Design Process and the VEX IQ Robot
    • Robot Design and Construction
    • Programming in Graphical RobotC
      • Programming Navigation:  forward, backward, point turn, pivot turn, spin turn, use of sensors
      • Programming Commands:  Repeat Until, While, Wait Until, etc.
      • Programming Robot Manipulation (incorporating the use of sensors as well as robot navigation)
      • Autonomous Programming Challenge
    • Introduction to Remote/Driver Control
      • Driver Control Challenge: Team Alliance Matches
  2. The Scientific Method: Living & Non-Living – completed
    • Hypotheses formulation, testing, and research
    • experimental design and data collection, specifically: research how back bacteria move, where they live, and how they reproduce
      • Glow Germ Labs
      • Petri Dish Labs for collecting potential bacterial samples
      • Mold Lab: compare/contrast mold versus bacteria
  3. Optics – completed
    • The Eyes, Brain, and Light
    • Properties of Light
    • Additive & Subtractive Properties of Color
    • Optical Illusions
    • Law of Reflection
    • Creating Holograms
    • Experimenting with LASERS versus LEDs
  4. Introduction to Chemistry – completed
    • Protons, Neutrons, and Electrons – oh my!
    • Periodic Table
    • Chemical versus Physical Changes
  5. PBL: Programming Drone Aerial Navigation – completed
    • Driving Question: Do you think that drones will have a positive or negative effect on civilization?
    • Real World Case Studies: Debating the positive and negative potential of current, future, and controversial uses of drones
    • Integrating the Judicial System: Both criminal and civil cases are presented with students serving on juries and other students filling roles as plaintiffs, defendants, summoned witnesses, prosecuting or defending attorneys, etc.
    • Provided a schematic diagram of an Aerial Obstacle Course, students program for autonomous, aerial navigation
      • Final “Drone Olympics” – through a “ring of fire” (see photos below)…
  6. Oceanographic Studies – current unit of study
    • Preparation for 5th Grade Whale Watch Trip:
      • Humpback, Finback, and Minke Whales
      • Salt Marshes and Estuaries


Below are highlights of some of our 5th 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

Navigation Engineering: VEX IQ Robotics

VEXiq1AAfter being introduced to the VEX IQ Robotics System, students spend several class periods constructing their robots for navigation engineering as well as for programming robot manipulation incorporating sensors and actuators. Once the robots are constructed, students are next introduced to programming concepts in (graphical) RobotC. Having years of experience with developing comprehensive programming skills in numerous software systems throughout their previous grade levels, our 5th grade S.T.E.M. students easily grasp the programming concepts in RobotC. Throughout this real-world, engineering unit, students are highly engaged in an autonomous programming challenge in robot navigation and manipulation incorporating the use of sensors, for completing missions on a tournament field, including:

  • navigation engineering challenges with programming specific point, pivot, and curve turns
  • programming robot manipulation for retrieving and/or delivering specific mission components
  • programming robot manipulation for triggering specific targeted actions

After successfully completing each of their building & programming tasks, students document their programming and robot performance results.



Next, students are introduced to remote/driver-control and team alliance challenges:

  • Driver-Control Challenge – Robot Skills: One robot and two drivers score as many points as possible under driver control during one-minute matches ad with switching drivers at 30 seconds
  • Driver-Control Challenge – Team Alliances: An alliance of two randomly paired teams, each with one robot and two student drivers, work together to earn the highest group score during one-minute matches and with switching drivers at 30 seconds

Participating in end-of-unit team alliance matches modeled directly after official VEX IQ Robotics Tournaments, students are offered the opportunity to form competitive teams for continuing their robotics learning experiences.

Update: 2016-17 VEX IQ Robotics Teams

Virtually all 5th grade students enthusiastically participated on VEX IQ Robotics Teams! Equally exciting, one of our school teams advanced to the VEX Robotics World Championships in Louisville, Kentucky!

Below, check out the student-created video of the school team’s experience at the VEX Robotics World Championships!

Introduction to Object-Oriented Programming using ALICE



Alice is an innovative 3D programming environment that makes it easy to create an animation for telling a story, playing an interactive game, or a video to share on the web. Alice is a freely available teaching tool designed to be a student’s first exposure to object-oriented programming. It allows students to learn fundamental programming concepts in the context of creating animated movies and simple video games. In Alice, 3-D objects (e.g., people, animals, and vehicles) populate a virtual world and students create a program to animate the objects.

In Alice’s interactive interface, students drag and drop graphic tiles to create a program, where the instructions correspond to standard statements in a production oriented programming language, such as Java, C++, and C#. Alice allows students to immediately see how their animation programs run, enabling them to easily understand the relationship between the programming statements and the behavior of objects in their animation. By manipulating the objects in their virtual world, students gain experience with all the programming constructs typically taught in an introductory programming course.

Project-Based Learning with 4th & 5th Grades

Forensic Science Unit











Life Science Studies

Unit of Study – The Scientific Method: Living & Non-Living

Learning about Bacteria – Hypotheses formulation, testing, and research, experimental design & data collection

Students learn about bacteria, which is a germ, and how it differs from viruses, protozoa, and fungus

Students research how bacteria move, where they live, and how they reproduce – Germ LABS

Glo Germ LABS – Students performed experiments to answer the question: “Does liquid hand sanitizer really kill 95% of germs?” – You’ll have to ask them about our surprising results

Gr5_Glo Germ

Petri Dish LABS – Students swab various objects and grow bacteria in petri dishes filled with an agar nutrient allowing students to categorize bacteria by shape and color, just like real scientists; also, evidence obtained on which objects bacteria grow at a faster rate, and so on…




Osmosis LAB – Students first learn the difference between osmosis & diffusion

To help gain a better understanding of osmosis, students participated in hands-on labs to observe the physical changes (in size and mass) of Gummi Bears placed in tap water, distilled water, and salt water. Predictions were made and, a week later, students observed that Gummi Bears placed in tap water increased both in physical size and weight. The Gummi Bears that were placed in distilled water also underwent physical size and mass changes, but not as much as the ones that were placed in tap water. The Gummi Bears that were placed in salt water solution decreased in both physical size and mass. Students were then challenged with concluding why these changes occurred.


Cell Labs

  • Comparing/Contrasting slides of various cells
  • Microscope Mystery Lab: students use their observation skills with determining which slide contains water, which is vinegar, which is lemon juice, which is Mt. Dew, and which slide contains saliva
  • Diagramming and creating a physical model of a cell


Gr5_Cell Diagrams



Students create their physical models of a cell

Cell Research Projects:  Students present their findings on their chosen research projects

Gr5_Research Proj ImagesSS

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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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.

Fifth graders studied about renewable and nonrenewable energy throughout their experimental labs demonstrating the different properties of reflection and absorption. In addition, students had the opportunity to design and construct their own windmills along with also testing various loads to determine effectiveness.





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