Skip to main content

Sandy Journal

Glacier Hills students raise funds for school, celebrate with hands-on STEM learning

Jun 04, 2024 02:49PM ● By Julie Slama

At Glacier Hills Elementary’s STEM night, students, with the help of staff, build rockets that they launched down a hallway. (Julie Slama/City Journals)

River Holfeltz and her kindergarten daughter, Scarlet Veliz, were having a night out—at Scarlet’s school, Glacier Hills Elementary.

“We’re investigating all the STEM projects we can do and supporting the school,” Holfeltz said.

They were turning down the hall where Jackie Oleksak, a Youth Academy teacher, was helping with rockets.

“The kids are loving making rockets and then, launching them down the hallway to see how far they’re able to go,” she said. “They’re listening, following directions and practicing their fine motor skills to be able to build the rockets.”

It was Glacier Hills’ STEM and fundraiser night, which raised $12,000, surpassing the $7,500 goal, which propelled Principal Julie Winfree to kept her promise to students and kissed a pig at an assembly. 

To raise the money, the school held penny wars where certain coins added points and others, subtracted. The school also received $4,600 in online donations and community members donated bags and bags of clothing, which contributed $1,340 to the total.

The money will be used to create a game room for rewarding and reinforcing positive behavior, Winfree said.

“The penny wars have been really fun; I’ve had kindergartners say, ‘I’m going to sabotage this,’” she said. “We wanted to come up with a creative fundraiser and a creative night to celebrate the fundraiser week. This was a perfect opportunity to have a fun STEM night and to bring the community into our new building once again.”

During the night, students could try their hand at solving Tetris puzzles, building contraptions with K’nex, solving the magnetic challenge or one of a number of activities created by Canyons School District’s Digital Teaching and Learning Specialist Chandra Martz, who created the STEAM kits for schools to use with a portion of a grant she received from the Utah STEM Action Center.

In the kits that come with dozens of challenges, students learn to ask questions, analyze data, investigate and recognize similarities and patterns. They could develop and test solutions and explore learning using tools—or in many cases, try fun learning tools such as coding a robotic dog or exploring snap circuits.

“We included the activities they can do at home, so they learn STEAM is anywhere,” she said. “As long as they’re asking the right questions, STEAM can be implemented into pretty much any activity.”

Some of those questions may be “how can you break down the problem to make it easier to solve” or “what resources can you use to solve the problem,” she said.

In addition, Discovery Gateway and Utah Valley University provided other opportunities, such as making elephant toothpaste and investigating color fireworks.

At the end of the hallway, Corner Canyon High teacher Brian Tracy was teaching students about the air cannon vortex and the Van de Graaff generator.

“I have all these fun activities to inspire the kids,” he said. “So, when I learned they were having a STEM night, I just imposed and said, ‘Can I come and play too?’”

Tracy hoped students would learn from trial and error and iteration.

“Often in our society, we are encountering with a problem and often, we’re looking at, ‘What’s the solution?’” he said. “I may give them a template that they can follow to get them started, but then I really want them just to iterate and try new things. I want them to discover what they can invent. That’s way more important than random knowledge.” λ