The ultimate holiday tradition floated upward at Whitnel Elementary School as second graders decorated balloons and envisioned crowded streets and enthusiastic performers through lenses that captured the excitement of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Students recreated the fanfare of spectators and evaluated the event using offline coding and STEM: science, technology, engineering, and math.
“Macy's Thanksgiving Parade is a family tradition that many participate in every year,” said Amy Philyaw, STEM Director and grant writer. “Adults and children alike have memories of watching the balloon floats on television while cooking or helping to prepare the thanksgiving meal. However, many students today do not know the history of the parade and how it began to help immigrants develop new traditions in their American homes.”
Philyaw created this STEM lesson to teach students the history of the parade while challenging them to engineer a balloon float of their own creation and learn to code a robot to drive their float down a model of New York's Broadway.
Students plotted their course, calculated directional codes, and watched their balloons move along the skyscrapers. “They were highly engaged as they were able to build their background knowledge of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade,” teacher Chelsea Johnson said. “Then, they used their coding skills to orchestrate a mini parade in the classroom. Not only did they practice a skill set in STEM but also experienced a preview for the upcoming holiday festivities.”