A Middle School Celebrates STEAM

Science Friday and Richmond Hill Middle School have partnered to bring you a series of middle school STEAM lessons designed to slide into any subject

If you’d expect nutrition, paleontology, pollution, cells, biodiversity, renewable energy, interest rates, or soil structure to be subjects taught by science teachers, there’s a middle school in Georgia that looks forward to proving you wrong.

The Richmond Hill Middle School STEAM Program Logo is a black and yellow wildcat head in an arrow, with RHMS and STEAM positioned around symbols representing chemistry, computer science, engineering, the arts, and math

Richmond Hill Middle School is a public 6-8 middle school located in Richmond Hill Georgia next to Savannah Georgia. RHMS has one of 17 middle school programs to receive a STEM or STEAM certification from the Georgia Department of Education. The focus of the program is to educate its students through project-based learning that centers around the application of the Georgia standards to real world problems that can be found in the SE Georgia community and beyond. The RHMS STEAM program serves one out of every three students in the 2,000 student middle school, but what makes it so unique is the pervasiveness of STEM concepts, systems, and skills across all subjects, and always with a problem to solve. Students in all subjects work in collaborative groups to host debates, build disc golf courses, direct stop motion videos, engineer electric devices for investor faire, make weather forecasts, test filters, race electric cars, design mission patches, and more.

In 2022, Science Friday and Richmond Hill Middle School partnered to capture and share some of the cross collaborative lessons developed by the RHMS STEAM teaching teams, following in the footsteps of Science Friday’s Educator Collaborative Program. In addition to participating in a two-day professional development, team building, and “write-in” lesson design cycle, educators received training on capturing and disseminating their instructional practice in a way that would encourage adoption by educators around the country.

A sunny day at Richmond HIll Middle School, a brick building with stone archways surrounded by palms and green grass.
Richmond Hill Middle School, Bryan County School District, Savannah, Georgia.

The lessons developed by the RHMS instructional teams champion standards-aligned instruction, a strong culture of student-directed learning, use of primary sources to support a claims-evidence-reasoning model, and STEM integration across all subject areas. They also share a solutions-mindset. Each of the lessons presented below challenges students to solve a real problem.

So dive in, get inspired, and be sure to subscribe to Science Friday’s Education Newsletter to be notified when each of these and other new, open, and educator-authored lessons and activities are published!


The Nutrition Of Colorful Fruits And Vegetables

Students are challenged to plan and plant a garden that will grow produce rich in micronutrients to address specific illnesses in this applied agriculture and nutritional sciences lesson.
By Dennis Moore

An assortment of tomatoes in a range of colors, organized by color.
How is this collection of colorful produce different from the ones above? Credit: Shutterstock

Air Pollution Around The World

In this lesson, students will research how air pollution is generated and its impact on countries around the world before brainstorming creative solutions for a country of their choosing, and crafting a Public Service Announcement.
By Amanda Winter and Teressa Smith

Two images of the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France from similar vantage points. The image on the left has a gray haze of air pollution almost fully blocking the view of the tower, the one on the right has bright puffy clouds on a blue sky day.
Air quality can change dramatically over time. Two images of the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France from similar vantage points. The photo on the left was taken in December 2016, during a 10-year peak in air pollution.

Learn About Classification Systems With Snacks

Classification helps us to group, organize, and understand the world around us. In this activity, you will develop your own system for classifying foods, and in the process, develop the skills you’ll need to understand other classification systems, like the ones we use to organize living things into kingdoms.
By Ann Vitello and Alexandra Ameduri

 Build A Model Dinosaur

In this STEAM activity, students select a species of dinosaur or other prehistoric reptile to research. They will use fossil information that they uncover about their prehistoric creature to create a model of it. Finally, they will feature their model in a short video explaining how their chosen dinosaur (and its body) might have interacted with, and been adapted to, its environment. By Tammy Luke

A large duck-billed dinosaur with a curved head ornament called a parasaurolophus is wading into shallow water to eat green grasses.
A parasaurolophus wading into shallow water to eat vegetation there. Illustration by Jay Rasgorshek for Science Friday.

Sustainable Tech For The City Of Ember

What does it take for human beings to survive? What happens when the most basic human needs are threatened in a challenging environment? Dystopian doomsday stories are the stuff of science fiction, but where does the fiction stop and the science begin? In this lesson, you’ll consider the science behind survivalist works of fiction such as Andy Weir’s The Martian and Jeanne DuPrau’s The City of Ember. You’ll argue as though you were an inhabitant of Ember struggling to survive: How will you produce stable energy and a reliable food source in order to save the city? By Brandy Sherrod

An illustration of a tank of fish positioned next to a trough of growing lettuce and tomato plants. Water from the fish tank is being pumped onto the plants to provide moisture and fertilizer.
Plants grown aquaponically have nutrients delivered from the nutrient-rich water of a fish-tank. Credit: Shutterstock

The Mortgage Realities Of A Dream Home

Purchasing your dream home is not just about how it looks and feels, but the actual costs associated with its size, characteristics, and location. Other factors, such as significant population growth in a community, financial market ups and downs, and even climate change can dramatically change not only the list price of a house, but also the total money you pay for the house with a loan and interest. In this activity, you will calculate the mortgage costs for a new and old home to determine the actual cost of purchasing a home. By Kristin Butkovich and Jamesa Broome.

Colorful miniature houses sitting on stacks coins.
Miniature colorful house on stack coins using as property and financial concept. Credit: Shutterstock

Do Cells, Tissues, And Organs Give Super Athletes An Edge?

What does it take to become a super athlete? Is there something special about their bodies that makes them so successful? Or is anyone capable of swimming that fast, if they just put their mind to it? You’ll compare the physiology and abilities of athletes of different genders, races, ethnicities, and sports in order to draw conclusions about what it takes to be (or become) a super athlete. Then, you’ll design the next super athlete for your favorite sport. By Emily Courtenay and Lauren Avant.

An illustration shows a woman running. Pullouts marks cells, tissues, and organs related to her exercise.
Illustration by Nekane Terrades Garcia of Catalyzing Science.

Solve Real-World Soil Science Problems With Math

Coming soon!

Some countries, such as China, are taking drastic measures to convert desert areas to support plant life. But in order to accomplish such an ecological feat, they have to start from the ground up. That’s right! They have to start by changing the soil. In this activity, you will analyze different soil types to determine their composition and properties. As you go about engineering soils, you’ll learn to use ratios and percentages to accurately describe the relative amount of each component in the soil mixture so that other scientists can replicate your results. By Lisa Bright.

An illustration shows gray-brown dirt on the left with dead or dying trees, which slowly progresses to layers of gold, orange, and rich brown soil with healthy trees growing.
An illustration shows layers of different soils. Credit: Lydia Eykelestam Burton

Meet the Writer

About Ariel Zych

Ariel Zych is Science Friday’s director of audience. She is a former teacher and scientist who spends her free time making food, watching arthropods, and being outside.