With Thanksgiving just ahead, there's a lot of talk about the table.

With Thanksgiving just ahead, there's a lot of talk about the table.
Although the focus is on food and decoration, a group of fourth grade students at Central Elementary in Neosho learned how they could build a table.
Mrs. Mindy Bartley's class, under the guidance of Ralph Maness, had their first STEM assignment on Tuesday.
STEM classes combine science, technology, engineering, and math skills in real world lessons that connect school, home, and community.  While students aren't likely to build a table sturdy enough to hold Thanksgiving dinner, they did learn useful skills that can have many applications. And they had fun in the process.
Students divided into small groups for the assignment. Each group was tasked with drawing or talking about a design for a table using six pieces of newspaper and a piece of cardboard. After agreeing on design, students build their table using the materials.  Then, they tested their creation which had to be sturdy enough to hold a large dictionary. If the table failed to hold the volume, then students had to regroup and try again.
The fourth graders studied aquaponics for the last seven weeks. Maness, who the students call 'Mr. Ralph' asked them to explain what aquaponics are. "It's when you put a plant in water and you raise fish and it helps the fish grow," a student named Stella explained. "There's something it in that helps."
Another student, Winter, provided additional details. "The reason that the water helps the plants grow is that it has nutrients in it," Winter explained. "Whatever nutrients your body (or the fish's) doesn't need comes out in the waste and the plants use the nutrients."
As the class turned toward the new assignment, they talked about Thanksgiving. Students said it was a day to eat turkey, thank God, and be thankful.
The class of sixteen divided into groups and began working on a paper table that had to be at least 12 inches tall.
The first group to build a table that held up under the weight of a dictionary consisted of Christian Brandon, and Winter. Their first effort stood when Maness tested the weight bearing capability. Next, they tried adding several other books but the table collapsed. So, the group went back to the drawing board and adjusted their design. The second table did hold up under the dictionary and the additional books so with Maness' suggestion, they tried a computer tower. Their table held up.
Other groups also worked diligently at building their tables with plenty of trial and error, a few giggles, and numerous smiles.
While every group did not succeed in building a paper table sturdy enough to hold a dictionary, all of the students learned some vital skills they can apply to many other lessons and life projects.
Best of all, from a child's point of view, they had fun while they learned!