Middle School students started their day with their first ever collective Friday STEM (Science.Technology.Engineering. Math) activity. In these sessions, students solve design and engineering challenges together with their multi-age house league groups (Ershig, Ferlin, Hess, and Kaiser).   


Student engagement began with watching an introductory video clip, “The Secret Language of Elephants,” which introduced the members of an elephant family group and how they communicate. In this film, students learned about the various roles scientists play when studying animal behavior. In this case, scientists study animals in the field by making careful observations over long periods of time, recording animal sounds and behaviors. In the lab the data gathered from the field is analyzed by scientists who look for patterns to correlate with human expressions of emotions. The end goal of this research is to create a sort of “Elephant dictionary” for future scientists to use when studying African Forest Elephants.  Students were reminded that as humans, we don’t use infrasonic sound to communicate, but animals like elephants use multiple vocalizations to convey the array of social interactions and to share their complex emotions in elephant society. 

After collectively learning about elephant communication, the STEM CHALLENGE was to work in groups of 4-5 students to build the longest elephant trunks they could (without using tape or glue) using paper towel and TP tubes, scissors, brads, and string. This initial activity was about working as a group to problem solve and to develop design thinking by strategically building a structurally sound object to represent an elephant trunk.