Photo – Laker Elementary and Junior High teacher Jamie Schaefer is pictured with some of the Project Lead the Way and VEX Robotics materials she’ll be using in the elementary STEAM Studio next year at Laker Elementary. STEAM stands for science, technology, engineering, arts and math, and Laker Elementary students and seventh graders will be doing a wide variety of hands-on STEAM lessons throughout the next school year. The lessons focus on problem solving, teamwork, pressing through challenges, and coming up with creative solutions.
Starting in the fall of the 2018-19 school year, Laker Elementary students and Laker Secondary School seventh graders will be embarking on many new STEAM adventures in the classroom, and these activities are geared toward giving students the skills they’ll need to succeed in whatever career they choose.
STEAM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math, and STEAM lessons are designed to show how all five of these topics are interlinked.
“As an administrative team, we are always looking for ways to give our students an advantage, so we do a lot of brainstorming,” said Superintendent Brian Keim. “Last summer, we invited local business leaders to a luncheon at the Laker Cafe and asked them to share what would benefit students most when they entered the workplace.”
Keim said the most common responses included problem-solving, critical thinking, basic hands-on experience with a variety of technology and trades, and simple “soft skills,” such as interviewing, writing cover letters, and dressing appropriately.
“With those things in mind, we set out to give our students some learning experiences that would address those needs,” he said. “It has also been well documented that many or most of the job opportunities for the next generation will involve some background in STEM areas.”
At the elementary level, Jamie Schaefer will delve into STEAM lessons for every grade level. Her classroom will be known as The STEAM Studio. This past school year, she already conducted many STEAM lessons, intermixed with art projects. To help prepare her to do more STEAM activities next school year, she will have summer training to become a Project Lead the Way (PLTW) teacher. PLTW is a program that provides hands-on projects that encourage students to work collaboratively, identify problems, apply what they know, persevere through challenges, find unique solutions, and lead their own learning. She recently received dozens of boxes filled with materials for PLTW lessons. The lessons include anatomy, forces and interactions, animal adaptations, light and sound, the sun, moon and stars, animated storytelling, properties of matter, heredity, the science of flight, and much more. Students also will learn about programming.
In addition to PLTW, Schaefer will be teaching VEX Robotics to older grade levels, and fifth graders will be building robots.
“I am looking forward to spending more time teaching STEAM concepts,” she said. “This (past school) year was great! We made bobsleds, catapults, kaleidoscopes, ecosystems and played in the dirt. I look forward to building on these concepts with more great projects and learning experiences for our students.”
Schaefer noted that students will still do take-home art projects at various points of the school year, such as at Christmas.
At the junior high level, seventh graders will be divided into four groups of equal size, and each will get one marking period (nine weeks) in each of four STEAM classes – programming, taught by Schaefer; robotics, taught by Don Manchester; hands-on science, taught by Tyler Scharf; and introduction to art, taught by Ward Donovan.
“Exploratories are a junior high concept designed to provide students with exposure to a variety of classes/topics that they might not otherwise take,” said Laker Secondary School Principal Jon Good. “They are designed to be an introduction to the topics that they can explore more deeply with classes once they get to high school. We are excited about all the new possibilities that await with the upcoming Innovation Center and these classes are intended to get students excited about all those possibilities.”
Good and Keim said the STEAM classes will allow students to gain confidence in important life skills, and through exploring different topics, they could very well find their niche that will lead to a fulfilling career.
“We believe better thinkers, problem-solvers, and team players will be better employees, parents, and citizens,” Keim said. “We also believe this kind of learning will expose students to potential skills and careers that may not be part of their current family experience. Offering this exposure early on will give our students a chance to spark new interests and make more educated choices when it comes to other elective classes in high school and beyond. We are excited to see how these new opportunities impact our students. This is about more than new classes and facilities. It’s about new ways of learning and thinking. We want our students to become creators and innovators and leaders, and we believe this is the best way to help them achieve those things.”