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Academics, Community, Events, Middle School, Upper School

Winterfest 2021 Brings STEM to Life for NWS Students

By Amy Painter

A Look Inside This Imaginative Day of Hands-On Learning

One of the most highly anticipated annual events, Winterfest, held on Friday, December 17, brings The Northwest School community together for a lively and engaging celebration of math and science. The event ignites students’ imaginations by highlighting the creativity, excitement, and beauty of these disciplines. Winterfest is a long-standing Northwest tradition designed to promote active student participation in a host of STEM-based activities.

Students spent the day rotating throughout the school and participating in presentations on topics including data (how to tell stories with data), paper airplanes (engineering), coding, and projectile motion (physics).

“We want the students to be engaged the whole day, to come into presentations and to interact in a hands-on manner with the science and math,” explained science department chair Cecilia Tung.

Read about each of the activities below, and to see photos and videos from throughout the day, visit our Facebook and Instagram pages.

Dear Data 

The day began with Dear Data, a two-session program led by Frances Tee that shows students how to view their world in terms of the data they generate as they move through their day. The session exercises invited them to discover how meaningful data can be in telling a story about their lives — their homes, families, and pets — when they learn to represent it visually and to share their findings with others. Data, they discovered, can help us get to know ourselves and one another better. 

Initially, students learned how people could exchange postcards with graphics, charts, etc. describing their lives and their homes. Then, they were invited to consider how they interact with water throughout the day as they created their own postcards. The considered questions such as: When? Where? How much did they use? Who was involved? The answers to these questions guided them in using shapes, images, colors, silhouettes, etc. to tell their story in their own post cards.

Paper Airplanes

Engineering 1

In this very lively session, Herb Bergamini’s 8th graders led a contest building and flying paper airplanes. The idea was for participants to fly their planes to see how high, far, and long each plane travels, with data recorded live during the event.

Bulls-Eye

Engineering 2

To prepare for this exercise, students were asked to predict motion in two dimensions: vertical and horizontal based on velocity, acceleration, displacement, and time. Under the tutelage of Flora Weeks and Jeremy DeWitt (physics), they then built ramps, launched balls, calculated the balls’ velocity, and used equations of motion to find the displacement so the balls would fall into the cup or bucket.

From the floor above, 12th grade physics students demonstrated how to send a ball down a ramp and up into the air, aiming to land the ball in a cup. Other participants worked in small groups at tables to test their cardboard ramps, demonstrating their ability to calculate the projectile motion of each ball based on the angle and velocity at which it is launched from the ramp. Many were able to hit the bulls-eye represented by the waiting cup.

Hour of Code

Hour of Code offered students a chance to see how computer coding works, and how it can be applied in various aspects of their lives – whether it’s designing games, understanding how to prevent the spread of disease, or learning how computers think.

Sponsored by code.org, an Hour of Code let students choose beginning, intermediate, or advanced levels of coding to learn and practice.


A big thanks to our math, science, and computer science faculty for their hard work and to our students for putting their all into the projects.

To see our students in action, please visit our Facebook and Instagram pages.