Oxford Elementary Showcases STEM Skills with a Little Help from the Local Fire Department

Students outside wearing masks

The Oxford Fire Department made a special visit to Oxford Elementary School with a ladder truck recently to support the culminating activity of a new instructional sequence the school designed and implemented this year. As part of an effort to improve mathematics achievement, the school has started a new tradition of supporting the transition into academics with a “First Ten Days of Math” program for all students in Grades 1 through Grade 6.

The program supports students in thinking of themselves as mathematicians who enjoy and actively participate in problem solving through establishing consistent classroom roles, routines, and procedures that support teaching and learning, and increase rigor by having students explore, express, and better understand mathematics content through problem-solving.

The Grade 4 to 6 teams participated in the STEM Egg Drop challenge to support older students in applying the academic and social-emotional routines and procedures that will set them up for success as they transition into the curriculum.

Fire truck with latter up. students gathered outdoors watching

The challenge is a project-based lesson that helps students learn to:

  • embrace mistakes that make your brain grow and, in turn, help you to learn
  • communicate and compromise with partners and groups
  • assess strategies
  • get unstuck and ask questions
  • share their thinking and communicate in the math classroom
  • make sense of problems and create a plan to solve them
  • use feedback and revise work

“All of this work is a way to support students in better understanding productive academic behaviors, so they know how to use them throughout the school year,” said Caitlin Dailey, Oxford Elementary Math Coach and MSAD #17 K-6 Math Coordinator.

Originally an extension of a school-wide book study of Mathematical Mindsets by Jo Boaler, the project has become “so much more,” added Dailey, with students now implementing these behaviors throughout their school day.

Fifth-grader Jackson Lessard reflected, “This was the first time we got to know each other. I think this is going to make our communication better. Communication is so important. Even if your group isn’t a group of friends you can find ways to work together to solve problems.” The practical lessons learned informed norms or agreements for many classrooms. A classmate, Juliette Szantyr added, “Making agreements about how we would work together in our classroom is really helpful.”

“We’re really excited about what we’ve built with our students–beyond egg containers–and that our whole school has embraced the importance of cultivating a community for math learning,” said Melissa Guerrette, 5th Grade Oxford Elementary School Teacher and 2021 Oxford County Teacher of the Year.

Teachers and other school staff have been reflecting on the success of the project and look forward to designing future opportunities to practice and reinforce these skills widely across the learning setting.

This article is part of the Maine Schools Sharing Success Campaign. To submit a story or an idea, email Rachel at rachel.paling@maine.gov.