Night School: STEM Foundations

At the fourth anniversary of Night School this October, math teacher Jon Choate ’60, P’85, ’88 and science teacher David Prockop P’15, ’17 taught a STEM Foundations class. Fifteen parents took their seats in the STEM classrooms and were the students for a lesson that highlighted the intersection of science and mathematics that is the hallmark of Groton’s STEM curriculum.

The class began with a discussion of polygons and the mathematical principles evidenced by a close examination of their attributes. Condensing a week’s lesson into a brief evening, Jon Choate led the group through the mathematical discoveries of Descartes and the relationship between shapes’ vertices, edges, and faces. He gave parents the opportunity to play with snap-together equilateral triangles, using them to solve the problems he posed.

The second half of the evening moved into science and Dave Prockop took the lead. He explained the difference between the modes of thought acceptable in the world of mathematics versus those useful to scientists, and how that difference informs their approaches in the classroom. He then went on to show how a seemingly simple experiment using a warm solution of aluminum oxide can reinforce the mathematical principles that had just been introduced by Jon Choate. As the aluminum oxide solution cools, it solidifies into hexagonal crystals. By observing that transformation, students bring their mathematical explorations into the science classroom.

Night School may have ended without a quiz or test, but the parents left energized and appreciative of the intellectual creativity that is at work every day in the STEM classrooms.

The next Night School is Monday, February 11 at 7 p.m.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.