Rehoboth Elementary students go full STEAM ahead with beach cleanup project

Rehoboth Beach City Manager Sharon Lynn, back left, and Mayor Sam Cooper met with Rehoboth Elementary fifth-graders to discuss the beach cleanup process. In middle row are students Erin Morrissey, Maggie Mitchell, Riley Klopp, Emily Monigle and Molly Lingo; seated is student Nina Gracie. SOURCE SUBMITTED
July 29, 2014

While many elementary-aged students were busy planning their summers, a group of fifth-graders from Rehoboth Elementary School was still working hard on a science project. Inspired by the environmental mantra, Think globally, act locally, students participating in the STEAM grant program made an early morning trip to the beach June 8 in order to tackle a year-round problem - keeping local beaches free of litter.

Lt. Gov. Matt Denn's Accelerated Academic Education Grant finances the STEAM program. STEAM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics. Participating students received STEAM-enriched instruction including a challenge-based learning opportunity that inspired the students’ innovative approach to a global problem by first tackling a local problem and then conjuring up possible solutions.

Collaboratively, RES fifth-graders investigated a local problem, collected data, and then agreed upon on a way they could help their school community. They sought to decrease the amount of litter polluting the local aquatic ecosystem. After collecting data, their next step was to sharpen their interviewing skills and pose a possible solution to the problem by meeting with Rehoboth Beach City Manager Sharon Lynn and Mayor Sam Cooper during the school day. The students presented their beach cleanup solution with facts and possible remedies, using a video that they created.

The City of Rehoboth Beach permitted the fifth-graders to host a beach cleanup June 8. The students were greeted by city employees David Hood and William Frasier. After being outfitted with gloves and bags, the students dug in. Not only did they dispose of paper plates, plastic cups, toys, and soda cans, they also found broken chairs, used diapers, cigarette butts, and discarded towels. Their total haul for the day was approximately 105 pounds of human-generated debris that may have ended up in the ocean.

After meeting with Lynn that morning and reporting their success in collecting as much garbage as they could find, the students began to brainstorm ways to prevent such items from being on the beach in the future. They presented Lynn with possible solutions, such as using social media to make more people aware of the problem and perhaps inventing a new machine that will pick up even the smallest pieces of litter discarded on the beach.

Fifth-grade teacher Jacquie Kisiel said, "Lt. Gov. Denn's Accelerated Academic Education Grant provided the opportunity for my students to fully cultivate and embrace the Next Generation Science Standards. These standards, which identify science and engineering practices, will enable my students to be fully prepared for college. The standards are a perfect match for this type of hands-on approach. The team building and scientific exploration we did for this activity engaged them in higher-order thinking. When you make the learning fun and experimental, the fear factor is gone. They learn that it's a process to design, build, and improve on your original models."