Once a week for 50 minutes, students at Fruitport’s Edgewood, Beach and Shettler elementary schools will have a science, technology, engineering and math (S.T.E.M.) class. The class will be offered like gym, art and music, and it will be given the entire year.
Fruitport Community Schools Director of Curriculum & Instruction Allison Camp said they were looking at increasing opportunities for elementary students for specials classes and ways to capitalize on the work being done in the middle and high school programs.
To offer S.T.E.M. classes, the district hired two teachers – one for Edgewood, and one who will split each week between Shettler and Beach.
At Fruitport Middle School, students can already take industrial arts and robotics classes. In addition to offering an advanced computer course, Camp said they plan to add a coding class.
Fruitport High School has a “strong industrial arts program,” said Kathleen Steudle-Schwander, a CAD/Architecture/Engineering teacher at Fruitport High School.
Students are also able to take a wood technology shop class. Steudle-Schwander said it’s rare that students can take a one-hour class on their school campus as opposed to at a career tech center.
In developing a curriculum for the S.T.E.M. classes, they looked at skills where older students fell behind. Steudle-Schwander and they looked at if they could address those skills earlier, students could take their learning even further.
They also looked at the practices and habits that go into science and math fields, and they plan on honing in on those skills.
The skills students learn will expand outside of the classroom. By learning to problem solve, they’ll be able to persevere, develop an idea, test it, and make improvements, Camp said.
The classes will give young students the chance to see there’s not always one right answer to solve a problem, Steudle-Schwander said.
As students begin S.T.E.M. classes, Steudle-Schwander said she thinks students will be excited to have hands-on problem solving opportunities and develop the solutions on their own.
“It’s engaging,” she said.
Students will also learn about S.T.E.M.-related career paths. Camp said they hope S.T.E.M. classes and the learning inspires ideas in children about the types of careers they would like to pursue.
By getting more technology and opportunities in front of students at younger ages, Camp said they hope students are able to adapt to career choices that will be available in the future and might not currently exist.
Although S.T.E.M. is being added at the younger level, Camp said they’re looking at the long-term plan to infuse more technical computer courses at the high school level since they’re one-to-one with Chromebooks.
As the district ramps up efforts in the S.T.E.M. field, Camp said there’s a lot of support behind it.
Camp said they know there will be growing pains along the way, but they anticipate it to be bigger and better as it continues.
Steudle-Schwander said the district is lucky to have the industrial arts program and to have kept it when other districts made programming cuts.
“I’m so glad Fruitport never deleted these program,” she said.