Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (S.T.E.M.) class shifts learning from memorization to problem solving with project-based learning. Each week, the two Spring Lake schools’ kindergarten through fourth-grade students attend the 50-minute “special” like they would art, music or gym class.
“It’s fun, but also hard some times,” Holmes fourth-grader Inez Allard said.
During S.T.E.M. activities, students follow the design process of: state the problem, generate ideas, find a solution, build the item, evaluate, present results and share.
Fourth-grader Annabelle Warner said one of the more difficult projects was building a strong bridge out of 100 Popsicle sticks. The bridge had to be strong enough to hold a bucket of blocks.
Warner and Allard said S.T.E.M. class has taught them about teamwork and working through problems.
“I learned to never give up,” Allard said.
Currently, Holmes fourth-graders are building rockets as they learn about energy transfer. They plan to launch the rockets toward the end of the school year.
Abe Overway, the S.T.E.M. teacher at Holmes Elementary School, said the first-year program is going “fantastic.” He said it allows students to work through the first instinct of “it doesn’t work; I can’t do it.”
“I want for them to be problem solvers,” Overway said.
As they work on the projects, the students are assessed by the teachers through observation, listening as they collaborate and by asking them questions.
Overway said the most difficult part has been creating the curriculum, because there isn’t one for S.T.E.M. programs. Overway and Betsy Kipling, the S.T.E.M. teacher at Jeffers Elementary School, have researched and looked at other S.T.E.M. programs throughout the country as they develop their own.
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