By WCS InFocus
Not many schools have a room on their campus that is dedicated entirely to hands-on learning experiences, but Chapman’s Retreat Elementary School in Spring Hill has just that in their very own STEM lab.
Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, or STEM, encourages children to learn using their hands and their minds as they engineer all sorts of projects from paper towers to helicopters.
“In class, you just sit down and do worksheets and listen,” CRES fifth grade student Ashleia Coble said. “In STEM lab, you really get to build stuff and put your hands on things. I like getting my hands dirty and working on things.”
STEM education is considered vital to U.S. innovation. By next year, an estimated 8 million STEM related jobs will be available in the United States, but, according to Teach for America, “the vast majority of U.S. students will be unprepared to fill them.”
Preparing them to learn starts at the elementary school level, especially for children from low-income families. According to Teach for America, only 1 of 4 fourth graders with low-income backgrounds are proficient in math, and only 1 of 6 are proficient in science.
Chapman’s Retreat is able to maintain a year-round STEM Lab where classes can visit to take part in some hands-on learning, which is often key for students who learn better when they can see something in action and build it with their own hands.
“You can get a concept in your head but once they actually put it down, it makes sense,” CRES Technology Teacher Assistant Jeanette Arnold said. “They can see it; they can touch it; and they can find out how it works.”
On April 5, fifth grade students were in the STEM lab building cars with the intent of creating the fastest one.
While building a speedy car was the task of the day, it is far from the only project they have done in STEM lab this year.
“We’ve built helicopters, pipe cleaner towers, bridges, rockets, airplanes, cars and some other things,” Coble said.
No matter what the project of the day is, students in the STEM lab seem to approach it with enthusiasm.
“The hands-on part gets them excited,” Arnold said. “They get to do something fun here that doesn’t feel like school.”