Halliday students learn about math in nature

(Kayla Henson / The Dickinson Press)

Do you know what tangrams are? Tessellations? The Fibonacci Sequence? If your children go to Halliday Elementary School, they might.

The school opened its doors to its students and the community's home-schooled students Tuesday for a STEAM day. Divided into groups, the kids rotated from class to class to learn about math in nature through activities related to science, technology, engineering, art and math.

Kelsey Humpherys and Carrie Nottingham of Beulah business Olive Me & Co. led students through coloring their own granny squares with oil pastels.

Nottingham explained to the students where math is found in nature using photos of a sunflower, a snowflake, a nautilus shell and more.

"The elements that we’ve brought in by using these pictures are the Fibonacci Sequence and hexagons in nature, fractals, spirals. When they start on their design, there’s a basic grid there, and they can embellish them how they want," Nottingham said.


The Fibonacci Sequence reflects various patterns found in nature.

"All these things that are so organized, they’re beautiful and they’re organic, but it’s math," she said.

Meanwhile, with teacher Abby Brossart, students were working on tangrams , a dissection puzzle consisting of one parallelogram, one square and five triangles. The pieces must be arranged so that they match a specific shape.

Although all ages of students participate in the activities, the activities are geated to their age groups. For the older kids, Brossart provided outlines of the shapes they were to make with their plain colored pieces. For the younger kids, she provided tangram pieces that all together formed a square with a picture of a monster.

"It gets to be a challenge. It’s a different way of thinking. You use your other side of your brain, which is exciting and frustrating at the same time," she said.

Under the direction of teacher Sharon Musick, students made their own tessellations, a pattern of shapes that repeat without any gaps or overlaps, on computers. The younger students used software to multiply the pattern.

In another room, students were divided into smaller groups to create dioramas out of cardboard boxes, construction paper and Play-doh. Each group was given a specific element as a theme for their box. With help from teacher Ethan Krebs, Niibwin Davis made a fire salamander for his group's fire diorama, which also included a campfire and phoenixes.

Niibwin's parents, Cory and Sierra Spotted Bear, came to the school to see their children at work.


"Every parent wants to see how their kid did, what they come up with," Cory Spotted Bear said.

Both Niibwin and their daughter, Shahkohe Spotted Bear, attend the school.

"We sent our son to Killdeer last year … (which had) very large classrooms," Cory Spotted Bear said. "We liked the more one-on-one setting here. We liked the student-teacher ratio here. I graduated with 16 people, and we had the largest class ... Overall, we feel like it’s a very positive experience. We’re so thankful that our daughter is a kindergartner, and she’s getting exposed to STEM at such an early age."

After lunch, students made snacks modeled after the layers of earth — bedrock, clay, sand, topsoil, rocks and grass — then learned about pH balances using unmarked cups of liquid and an indicator — red cabbage.

The school aims to have a STEAM day each month, each one with a theme.

Related Topics: EDUCATION
Kayla Henson is a former Dickinson Press reporter.
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