STEAM School visits Oak Spring Farm

Our April fieldtrip to the Biocultural Conservation Farm at Oak Spring in Upperville, VA was a little washed out. Instead of tromping through the muddy gardens in the pouring rain, the creative staff came up with a fun indoor activity. In the classroom students made their own model of a walled in garden!

They designed their garden using cardstock and tracing popsicle sticks for their beds. Soil or “brown paint” was applied to the beds. Next, they threw on some weeds to simulate having to “wake the gardens up”. Black plastic was placed on the beds to act as a silage tarp that would kill any weeds wanting to grow back and help decompose all of the plant material left from the previous growing season.

Using soil test kits, they learned how to test the soil for Nitrogen, Phosphorus, Potassium and pH. After, they pulled the silage tarp and raked their gardens using a scuffle-hoe (pipe cleaner) and a rake (plastic fork).

Next came the amendments to help improve the soil for the plants. Sea kelp was green glitter, Azomite was black glitter, Humic Acid was pink glitter and Feather Meal was yellow glitter. They learned how these natural materials help the plants to grow and thrive.

At the farm they use a broad fork to aerate the soil and move the amendments deeper instead of a gas powered tiller. Students mimicked this with using a plastic fork. Next they used the tilther (paintbrush) to prepare the top 2 inches of soil to prepare for seeds or transplanting.

Students got to choose different seeds to plant (glue) into their beds. They learned about the many heirloom plants that they grow at the BCF. They labeled their beds with a sharpie and installed drip irrigation using yarn. This was such a fun simulation, and the kids were so happy with their models.

Afterwards, they planted some microgreen and pollinator seeds to take home. It was such a fun and educational trip, and we were all pretty happy we didn’t come home cold and dripping wet. We can’t wait to return in the late summer to see what is happening IN the gardens!

And the winner is….!

This week the winners of The STEAM School’s Battle of the Books were announced to cheers from all! There were so many amazing titles to choose from and many of the races were really tight.

In the Picture Book category, the final two contestants were Pete the Cat vs The Pigeon Needs A Bath, and the winner is The Pigeon Needs A Bath!

In the Juvenile Fiction category, the choice came down to Wonder vs Percy Jackson. Percy Jackson in the semi finals had won against both Holes and The Harry Potter series after a tie the previous week against Harry Potter. The final winner is Percy Jackson! Possibly many new fans created after seeing the musical hosted at our local high school earlier this month!

In the Graphic Novel category, the final contest came down to the Wings of Fire graphic novel vs My Hero Academia. There was some minor grumbling when Wings of Fire appeared in two different categories but it is a wild favorite here at STEAM School and was declared the final winner in this category!

Finally, in our Young/Adult Fiction competition, the choice came down to Norse Mythology vs Mortal Engines but STEAM students were split evenly in their voting and we had a tie!

Here are the brand new books purchased for our school library.

Looking forward to next year and hearing about all the wonderful books the kids read between now and then!

STEAM School Battle of the Books Finals

STEAM School students began the final round of voting this week. Choices have been tough and races have been tight!

On Tuesday mornings, students move slowly through the hall checking each board to see which books have made it to the next round. There’s been a mixture of surprise and excitement for the wins and some disappointment for the losses.

Its definitely been very exciting and fun for the teachers to hear the students talk about their favorite books with their friends and get excited about new books! Winners will be announced next Tuesday and Thursday and the winning books will be purchased for the STEAM School Library.


STEAM School was invited to see, The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical, presented by Warren Co High School and Skyline High School. It was a wonderful experience as many of our students love the Percy Jackson series as well as Greek mythology.

Afterward, they were invited on backstage tour. They were very intrigued by the set design area where there were lots of building supplies. The also got to see where the cast waits to go on stage, where the props are kept and all the lights!

Then they made their way up to the light and sound booth. There they learned about the relays for the mics and how the sound board works. They also saw how the lights are coded or programmed to the show.

It was such a great experience for them to see all that goes into a theater production, from the musicians in the pit, to the set design and costumes, to the acting and singing to the lights and sound. There are many roles to fill when making a production and the comradery was evident.

Following the tour our students got to sit in on a Q&A with the cast, crew and a drama club. It was really interesting to hear about the different techniques the actors use to improve their skills and how others that prefer not to act also play an important role in the production. There is something for everyone.

A special thanks to Stephen and Rose Havery for making this happen.

Bird In The Hand Presentation

STEAM students were treated to a special presentation at school with an incredible visit from Bird In The Hand, a raptor education and rehabilitation program run by Nikki Stamps. She brought with her 4 different owls that live in the area: a Great Horned owl, a Barn owl, a Barred owl and an Eastern Screech owl.

Students learned of the many different adaptations that owls have to help them survive. We learned that they turn their heads 270º because of their immobile cone shaped eyes that take up 70% of the owl’s skull. Their beaks are specialized for gripping and tearing prey and we were shown how their talons are like ratchets that grip and hold onto prey.

The presentation ended with class pictures with the Great Horned Owl and a final presentation of the owl gobbling up and swallowing mice whole. The presentation was very engaging and thoughtful. Students and parents came away with a new perspective on the lives of owls and what amazing birds they are. You can learn more about Bird in the Hand at

Meet STEAM Teacher: Julia Buergari

We continue to get to know some of our fabulous STEAM teachers. Today we’ll introduce you to Julia Buergari. Julia is is teaching math projects classes at The STEAM School, and also leads the filmmaking elective.

How did you first find out about the STEAM School?

JB: I ran into our old music teacher at the library and we started talking about homeschooling. She was familiar with STEAM and told me more about it.

How have you been involved in the past, and what role(s) are you filling this year?

JB: Last semester I taught theater classes and the math games elective. This year I am teaching math projects and filmmaking.

Julia’s 2019/20 Class Descriptions:

Math Projects – In this class, we will be exploring the beauty of math in nature, discovering how math surrounds us and using key math concepts to solve real world problems. The topics covered this year include patterns, data collection and graphing, probability, logic, geometry and economics. Every class will include a mini-lesson on the topic being covered and a hands-on project that connects the abstract concept to the real world. From creating tessellation artwork to making an economically sound business plan, we are going to have lots of fun in Math Projects this year!

Filmmaking – In the filmmaking elective class, we will be exploring the art of filmmaking through viewing, critiquing and creating 5×5 films. The 5×5 film is a montage of 5-five second shots around a specific theme. Each class will film and edit a whole group 5×5 film with the option of creating their own at home to share with the class. Composition, editing and effective critique techniques will be incorporated throughout. I am so excited to see what the children create!

What is your favorite thing about teaching at STEAM?

JB: The community!

What is your background/experience with the topics you’ll be teaching?

JB: Math is my first love, and one of my majors in college was art history with a concentration in filmmaking

Any sneak peeks you can share about what the learners in your class might be working on this semester?

JB: Shark Tank!

Tell us a little about your personal interests/hobbies.

JB: I enjoy coaching soccer, yoga, travel and camping.

What is one goal you have for yourself and/or your students in this school year?

JB: To discover the beauty of math!

STEAM Kids Weave on Mini Looms

If your child has participated in STEAM’s Hand Works elective offered on Wednesdays this spring, you may have seen or heard about a creation that looks something like this:

I was pretty impressed when my eight year old was able to show me how to weave on one of these cardboard looms when I visited STEAM in March. Having been through some craft projects at home requiring a lot of adult assistance, she was able to weave solo on her loom. She worked on it for weeks, and even brought it home to finish it with zero encouragement (nagging) from me.

She is envisioning dolls blankets, mini table cloths, Calico Critter rugs, and more!

What would your child create with a hand-woven creation?

My sources tell me that Mrs. Beth helped the kids create these simple and inexpensive looms using cardboard and string, and showed them the weaving process. From there, they were free to create their own patterns using a variety of different yarn colors and textures.

No worries about pricked fingers! Since kids have an option of using a blunt plastic needle, or their fingers with this weaving project, it is accessible for even the youngest weavers.

Have your kids pre-cut yarn pieces to appropriate lengths, and bring their looms along for a road trip, or entertainment for those days when they have to come along to that appointment where the dentist fixes the front tooth you chipped on a fork (I’m a voracious eater).

I had a chance to weave alongside STEAM kids, and definitely found it to be a relaxing and satisfying activity — definitely something you can enjoy along with your kids.

Interested in doing this at home? It is super easy.

Here is a great video that will get you started in just a few minutes!

STEAM Learners Visit Warrenton Wastewater Treatment Plant

On Monday, April 1st, 2019, STEAM families had an opportunity to visit the Warrenton Wastewater Treatment Plant for a tour of the facility.

It was unseasonably cold and windy, so the predominantly outdoor tour was brisk, however, according to our tour guide, the cold weather decreases some of the less pleasant smells that are sometimes detected at the plant.

Originally built in 1958 with major upgrades in 1978 and 1990, the plant has since added an ultra-violet disinfection system and nutrient removal upgrades costing close to 8 million dollars!

Our tour guide walked us through all of the equipment the water passes through from the time it enters the facility to when it leaves the facility, and explained the purpose of each. We could actually see where the water runs into a nearby stream right after the ultra-violet disinfection.

Finally we went inside and got to peek at the lab where our guide described some of the tests they do on the water to make sure the equipment is performing properly, and talked about some of the jobs his coworkers have.

Looking for more resources on this topic?

My kids and I listened to a fun podcast the week before the trip to learn a bit more about the topic. If you are sensitive to potty talk or want to discourage it with your kids, I’d skip this one. Otherwise, they will probably love it like my kids did!

Brains On! : Flush! Where does our poo and pee go?

My husband forwarded me this article after our trip. It looks at the asset side of wastewater. Who knew?

Wastewater is an asset, with nutrients, energy and precious metals — and scientists are learning how to recover themh

If you are interested in the treatment process for the clean water coming into your house, this video from New Jersey is a good starting place.

Water and You: The Water Treatment Process

Leave a reply at the end of this post if you have found a good resource you’d like to share for learning more about water treatment or the water cycle.

Support STEAM School with Box Tops!

The STEAM School is now participating in the Box Tops for Education program!

This means that STEAM families can bring in clipped Box Tops that will be submitted for ten cents each for the school! Our first submission in the amount of $120.00 is currently processing, which will be paid out in the December Box Tops payment – Woohoo!

What are Box Tops? Box Tops are those little pink and white clips you’ll find on all sorts of common foods and household products. Here’s a picture of some:

Oh, and sometimes these guys…

How should I bundle/collect them? Submit box tops in baggies or tape them to collection sheets if you prefer (either way works just fine). As long as a box top is in tact and not expired, it will count toward our earnings! Don’t worry about trimming them perfectly.

Any tips for collecting? Be sure to let friends and family know that you are collecting Box Tops – in many cases they will be happy to save theirs up for you to submit. This can make a big difference! Kids also like to hunt for them on products. Send your Box Top detectives into the pantry to see if there are any hiding there, so they don’t get accidentally thrown out with packaging.

Where should I leave them? You can leave box tops on the counter near the payment box at STEAM where our coordinator will pick them up regularly. If you have friends and relatives collecting remotely, they can always be mailed to P.O. Box 112, Markham, VA, 22643 as well.

Questions? Contact our Box Top Coordinator Susan Maccarelli with any questions.