STEAM expands to San Juan Unified elementary schools

  • Girl plays with robot Second grader Shaquille Johnson buzzed around his Arlington Heights Elementary classroom on a recent Friday, still searching for an outlet to expend his 8-year-old energy after morning recess.

     Moments later, when teacher Melissa Schupp announced the class would spend the next section of instruction on STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, math) activities, Shaquille found his focus.

    “This … this is just having fun,” Johnson said while he snapped circuits together onto a board and connected a battery to launch a propeller into the air. “During STEAM time, you get to do more. You get to build things. I can make this fly.”

    Bzzzzzzz … clack. The propeller hit the ceiling.

    Arlington Heights Elementary has joined Grand Oaks, Mariposa Avenue and Carriage Drive as Citrus Heights elementary schools that are officially implementing a STEAM focus this year with the goal of creating a pathway from elementary into Sylvan Middle School. Sylvan has quickly become one of the region’s premier STEAM middle schools since debuting its new campus last year.

    “The whole idea is to support our Citrus Heights students with problem-based learning,” said Diana Marshall, San Juan Unified’s director of elementary and K-8 schools. “You look at problem-based learning and combine it with the engineering and design cycle starting in kindergarten, all the way through college, career and technical pathways in high school.”

    Lichen K-8, San Juan High and Mesa Verde High are also joining the Citrus Heights STEAM movement, Marshall said.


Powered by STEAM video series highlights student creativity

  • As Daniel Rollins clutches the trigger button that will send his C02 drag racer flying across Sylvan Middle School’s STEAM lab floor, he can envision his car winning its first race.
    Daniel, an 8th grader, won the C02 racer competition two years ago.
    “It’s all about the aerodynamics,” he said, showing how he designed and carved his wooden racer with a low profile.
    This year’s C02 drag races have a different look and feel than races of the past. Sylvan Middle School has moved into a new campus that has been designed for STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math). The brand new lab features new saws, drills and a 3D printer that have students excited to build and tinker.
    “Everything this year is ‘Powered by STEAM,’” Principal Kristan Schnepp said. “Our staff has really been invigorated by the opportunity to offer students lessons and projects through the lens of STEAM.”
    Read more by clicking here.

Community Partner honors Sylvan with STEM award

  • Kristan Schnepp shows off Sylvan's award Sylvan Middle School has been honored with the STEM Education Award by the Aerospace Museum of California for its ongoing dedication to the world of STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, math).

    Sylvan received its award at the museum’s recent BBQ on the Ramp fundraiser, which organizers said was a “tremendous success.” With 740 guests in attendance, the event raised $171,000 to support the museum and its education program, including $53,150 in the Bids 4 Kids category that is dedicated to providing STEM experiences for children.

    “Thanks to your help, the Museum expanded delivery of our STEM education programs to reach nearly 23,000 students,” museum development director Karen Jones wrote in an email to San Juan Unified. “This is the largest number of students to visit and participate in our education programs in the history of the Museum!”

     San Juan Unified director of professional learning and innovation Kristan Schnepp - also Sylvan’s former principal - attended the event along with several of the middle school students and staff members to accept the award.Students help raise money for STEM

    “I am truly proud of the commitment the Sylvan community has made to create partnerships with other Citrus Heights schools, as well as community businesses and partners,” Schnepp said.

Sylvan students 'fly' with actor Harrison Ford

  • Ford A group of Sylvan Middle School students can now add “co-starred with Harrison Ford in a promotional video” to their resume.

    The Aerospace Museum of California recently invited students from Sylvan Middle School, Churchill Middle School and Gold River Discovery Center to be filmed for a promotional video while experiencing its Flight Zone, a digital flight simulator exhibit that puts students at the controls under the supervision of a trained instructor.
    Sylvan Middle School has built a strong partnership with the Aerospace Museum as the staff works to infuse STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) into all subjects.

    Upon arrival, the students were surprised to learn that the famed “Star Wars” and “Indiana Jones” actor was also starring in the short film. Ford agreed to lend his star power to a Kickstarter campaign to raise $45,000 to bring 1,000 underserved children into the museum in 100 days.

    “I walked into the museum and glanced up. I thought I saw Harrison Ford and then I thought ‘Is that really him?’” said Sylvan eighth-grader Noah Rose. “Then I was like, ‘That’s really him!’ I’m such a huge ‘Star Wars’ fan. It was so cool.”

    California Aerospace Museum Executive Director and Curator Roxanne Yonn said Ford was attracted to the museum’s Kickstarter campaign because of his passion for flight. Ford is a trained pilot and personally owns a variety of aircrafts.

    “We have a good relationship here with Bob Hoover, a legendary pilot, test pilot stunt pilot and World War II hero,” Yonn said. “We asked him to help our campaign and he agreed but said, ‘You need more than just me,’ and he called Harrison Ford.”

    The Aerospace Museum of California can be reached at (916) 564-3250. Visit
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What is STEAM?

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    STEAM stands for science, technology, engineering, arts and math. A STEAM curriculum blends the sciences and the arts to inspire students to think deeper, solve problems creatively and look toward the future of their academic and professional careers.