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STEM opportunities expand at District 8

 

February 19, 2020

Submitted photo

8th graders Robert Kingsbury and Preston Fielding learn robotics by programming Arduinos with the Minds-I Robotics Kits, with the help of and teacher Mrs. Sandi Porter. (Bowen Browder is pictured on p. 1)

Science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) opportunities abound in the workforce. As of 2016, 17.3 million workers ages 25 and older were employed in STEM occupations, comprising 13% of the 131.3 million total U.S. workforce. (According to a Pew Research Center article.) The focus of STEM in Fountain-Fort Carson School District 8 (FFC8) is on problem-solving, critical and creative thinking, facing real-world challenges and devising ways to tackle them using the information and knowledge a student has. The district aims to provide innovative and creative opportunities for students that are problem-based and student-led and which also lead to increased learning in math and science, among other subjects. STEM projects and classes help students engage with content in unique ways and prepares them from post-secondary readiness.

FFC8 recently received a grant for $750,000 from the Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA), which will fund efforts and programs in STEAM (which is STEM with Art included) over the next five years. The 2019-2020 school year is the planning phase, during which FFC8 and its schools will begin to map out how to best leverage grant strategies and funds in alignment with current programs.

Primary focuses include investment in Project Lead The Way (PLTW) Gateway curriculum for grades 6 – 8 at Fountain Middle School, which will align with the PLTW pathways at Fountain-Fort Carson High School. According to FMS Principal Dr. Dallas, "FMS will be enhancing our Science Enrichment to embed three PLTW Gateway curriculum strands in the course offerings for students." These classes will directly align to Post-Secondary Readiness and FFCHS PLTW pathways and include the following (descriptions provided from the link above):

6th Grade: Energy and the Environment – In this course, students are challenged to think big and look toward the future as they explore sustainable solutions to our energy needs and investigate the impact of energy on our lives and the world. They design and model alternative energy sources and evaluate options for reducing energy consumption.

7th Grade: Medical Detectives – Students play the role of real-life medical detectives as they collect and analyze medical data to diagnose disease. They solve medical mysteries through hands-on projects and labs, measure and interpret vital signs, dissect a sheep brain, investigate disease outbreaks, and explore how a breakdown within the human body can lead to dysfunction.

8th Grade: Magic Electron – Students will explore electricity, the behavior and parts of atoms, and sensing devices in the Magic of Electrons (ME) unit. They learn knowledge and skills in basic circuitry design and examine the impact of electricity on the world around them.

Receiving this grant will directly support the FMS STEAM (STEM with Art) and Robotics Competition Teams through funding registration costs for competitions and providing additional parts and equipment for afterschool competitions. A third support this grant brings to FMS will be in the way of purchasing additional 3D printers and upgrading the school's Laser Cutter. Combined, these resources will allow FMS students to produce a wider array of products using a variety of materials.

Submitted photo

Sophie Grollimund, 7th grade, assembles her kit.

FFC8 is also planning to convert rooms at Jordahl Elementary, Eagleside Elementary and Weikel Elementary schools into STEAM labs. In those labs, FFC8 will bring in Creative Learning Systems® equipment to convert the spaces to state-of-the-art STEAM labs. These labs will help students explore STEAM and media arts through applied technology and project-based learning; they are a fully-integrated learning environment where everything from the furniture and technology to curriculum and assessment work together to support hands-on, minds-on learning. Weikel Elementary Principal Misty DeHerrera says, she is thrilled to house a STEAM Lab at Weikel! "This lab will provide critical thinking, problem-solving, and analytical thinking opportunities outside of the classroom. This new learning space will foster innovation and creativity." Mrs. DeHerrera elaborated, "Albert Einstein said it best: 'The important thing is to never stop questioning.' This lab will support Weikel students' quest for knowledge in a unique way."

In the years to come, the goal in FFC8 is to not stop with the schools mentioned above, but expand STEAM efforts to all schools and children, using those schools and programs as models across the district. Through the implementation of this grant, and previous grants, FFC8 is making a concerted effort to build K-12 STEM alignment in our educational system. This alignment and expansion at middle school and elementary levels will provide FFC8 students important exposure to STEM and STEAM careers, as well as a foundation they can add to as they progress through higher grade levels and explore more deeply once in high school.

 

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