The STEM Program at Penn Yan Elementary School is in full swing. STEM stands for science, technology, engineering, and math. Brenda Travis is the program’s teacher, and at some points throughout the day the STEM Lab is supported by Teaching Assistant Audrey Betz. The program includes grades one through five, and is in addition to regular math and science classes. This program is a source of support to classroom teachers and adds to what the children are already learning.
The goal of the STEM Program is to make students “college and career ready”. This involves learning soft skills, which include problem solving, working and cooperating with others in order to solve problems, and to develop perseverance. These skills are applied by providing students with materials and directions for an activity. The students build and create the project and work through any obstacles that arise, the same way an engineer would. When things don’t work, the students need to alter their building process, learning by trial and error. When kids can have fun doing that, it allows them to learn to use those skill sets.
Some of the current topics students are learning about include the earth’s movement around the sun, insulating vs. conducting, and energy for movement.
“All students are benefiting from the material because the STEM Lab is a place for them to explore, be creative and feel positive about the things we are doing. It gives each student an opportunity to express their learning in their own way.” The classroom follows the quote, “don’t kill the wonder”. We want students to always be curious when learning and have fulfillment of their thoughts and ideas. The goal is for each student to walk away knowing a little more about science, and to learn or see something they wouldn’t see somewhere else. “The kids have been great because they are excited, interested, and engaged. It’s something new and different,” says Ms. Travis.
“The STEM Lab is an opportunity to further Engage, Educate, Empower, and Enrich our students with hands on, collaborative learning that takes both their learning and application to even deeper levels, especially through the science lens. The STEM Lab also allows us to provide PYE students with opportunities to engage in hands on experiments and collaborative problem solving that would not be possible in individual classrooms due to the required materials, chemicals, prep time, clean up time, etc.” says Greg Baker, the Penn Yan Central School District Assistant Superintendent for Instruction and Staff Development. Mr. Baker also noted, “We recognize that many of the jobs our current students may pursue years down the road, do not even yet exist. So, the opportunities through the STEM Lab, whether that's diving deeper into Science, Math, Technology, Engineering, or the collaborative/problem solving nature of working in a team (21st Century Skills) will help prepare our students for college and/or career.”
There are a lot of options for the future of this program and the Penn Yan Central School District is excited to see where it will go!