STEM & Coding in the News |
Little extra turns STEM into STEAM at Highlands
Are our students falling behind?
Anyone remotely connected to education in these parts has heard of the STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) curriculum, and how Osceola County schools are spending time, money and resources to crank up the amount of that technology-based learning happens in the classroom.With a little help from some of her well-intentioned partners, Highlands Elementary Principal Alison Doe has been able to bring in a program that includes arts, meaning they’ve bought a vowel, added the ‘A’ — and created STEAM. And as the proverb goes, hot water is just hot but boiling water creates steam … and steam can power a train. Doe hopes STEAM can help power the minds of her older fourth and fifth-grade elementary students, like it did during a STEAM event at the school Dec. 18. The program comes from the folks at kidskode.org, which builds on children’s inherent gifts for exploration and experimentation. Some of the funding to make it possible for all of Highlands’ Title I children to participate comes from a non-profit called Vehicle4Change run by Lara and West Foster. “They’re awesome. They’ve been so generous to us,” Doe said. “I want the community to know what our partners like them do for these students.” The minds behind Kidskode, which helps generate activities that support standards in math and science and develop engineering tasks designed for this specific age group, recognizes that to be successful in technical fields, individuals must also be creative and use critical thinking skills which are best developed through exposure to the arts. The program also emphasizes the importance of building strong relationships through collaboration and teamwork. Both the Fosters and Kidskode encourage “design engineering” — when learning happens by doing things hands-on. Kidskode teaches the Engineering Process: define a problem, research a solution, design the solution, build it, troubleshoot it, build again addressing the issues. That was on display at Highlands’ STEAM day. Students had to suspend a marshmallow in mid-air using only uncooked pasta that they could tape together. Others drew color-coordinated pictures that a color-sensing robot the size of a toy car recognized in order to move. The Kidskode program also includes learning computer code to program simple digital games. Vehicle4Change has already been to Highlands Elementary in the past, helping the school build a hydroponic garden that generates organic lettuce that it sells to raise money, and bringing adventure courses where the kids can climb rock walls and fly down zip lines. There’s a fee to the students to use them, but the Fosters have a program that helps cover the costs for those who can’t afford it. “We’ve seen in schools that have students with low test scores that this raises them up because it opens their minds,” Wes Foster, a former teacher, said. Doe said she’s grateful for any program that can help bring students that kind of engagement. “It gets them more excited about the how and why,” she said. “We see they’re making that connection through an opportunity many of our students wouldn’t normally get. “We have a high number of ESOL (English as a second language) kids that, where maybe they can’t explain a certain concept so well, but they can build it.” Online information about both programs is available at kidskode.org and vehicle4change.org.