Feature Stories

Tonka Online Sixth Graders Explore Coding and Computing in STEM Elective

During the first quarter, Tonka Online sixth graders had the opportunity to explore everything from outer space to physical computing and coding programs through their STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) elective course. 

“STEM is a great opportunity for our online students to gain a curiosity for the world around us,” shared Lisa Reed, STEM teacher at Tonka Online and Minnetonka Middle School West. “Students in this class have shown great growth both in the knowledge they have gained as well as their ability to work collaboratively and persevere.”

Students began the year by learning about the space and the international space station. Some of their projects in the unit included imaging what they would bring to space (and designing that item to fit the size specifications of an astronaut’s very limited luggage) and tracking the International Space Station (ISS) . 

Sixth graders used media literacy skills to interpret a website and determine when they would be able to see the ISS pass by, depending on their geographic location. The project has become a favorite for students and families, shared Reed. Many students enjoyed being the first one in their family to spot the ISS and pointing it out to the rest of their viewing group.

The class also touched on the engineering design process using microBit fidget cubes. Students created the cubes with target audiences in mind, using elements of human-centered design to meet the needs of their intended users.

Students ended the quarter by working on coding projects using Scratch and Python. In their collaborative zoo projects in Scratch, they created animals and then had their animals interact with the creations of classmates. The Tonka Doodle project is another perennial favorite, Reed noted. Students chose holidays to represent through animations using the letters TONKA, similar to the “Google Doodles” that are featured daily on the search engine’s main page. This doodle, developed by students Molly and Codi, celebrates World Radiography Day on November 8.

The sixth grade STEM elective can be a turning point for students to discover and develop their interests in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, and in all of their projects, Tonka Online students demonstrated their curiosity and skills in collaboration. 

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