STEM teacher at Tidewater Academy


Amanda Norris, STEM teacher at Tidewater Academy

In spring of 2013, Tidewater Academy had the privilege of receiving a staff development class on Children’s Engineering directed by Mrs. Joyce Anderson.  She provided our K-5 teachers a day full of hands-on projects for us to design and build.  As a fourth grade teacher, I was inspired by this class.

After that class, I shared my vision with my Head of School and the Lower School Director.  I wanted Tidewater Academy to become a Children’s Engineering school.  Soon I was hired to lead the engineering classes in our Lower School.  I attended several of the Virginia Children’s Engineering Conventions and observed how to integrate engineering into our curriculum, learned how to create design briefs, and learned how to engage the students into this type of learning.

Many of the design briefs start with a challenge.  The students get the materials, and they work in teams to design, build or create.  The students are there to help each other as they solve the problem.  Many of the materials are recyclable items.  Parents and the community donate items throughout the year to keep this class going.

Our students have worked on many STEM projects throughout the years.  They have created name cards and invitations for Back to School Night.  The fifth graders have completed roller coasters, egg drop containers, birdhouses and animals out of toilet paper tubes.  The fourth graders have designed marble mazes using Legos.  They have created bridges using K’Nex.  A favorite of the fourth graders was making parachutes.  The third grade class used their knowledge of the geometric shapes to create a geometric creature. Students in kindergarten through second grade have completed many projects such as building a bowling alley and a community, designing bears and penguins, and constructing many buildings using Legos and candy structure.

Our community librarian has helped Tidewater Academy in many of the STEM projects such as robotics, rockets and building structures.  The Ozobot astounded the students.  They all wanted an Ozobot for Christmas that year.

The students are engaged every week with the ongoing STEM projects.  I wanted to create a class where the students would be having fun while learning at the same time. One can walk into the classroom and almost hear them thinking out loud.  They are always on task working on their projects.

Tidewater Academy gets a lot of positive feedback from our parents.  We post pictures of the students’ projects on our Facebook page, so the parents and the community can see what their child has accomplished in the STEM program.

As the STEM teacher at Tidewater Academy, I am glad that the students here have the opportunity to participate in the Children’s Engineering classes.