ROCK SPRINGS — On Friday, January 6, 2016, Sweetwater County School District #1 (SCSD#1) hosted a Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) training for teachers of the Extended Day Programs for district schools. Associate Professor of Information Technology Carla Hester-Croff of WWCC facilitated the training and modeled various ways to integrate STEM into K-12 classroom lessons. Associate Professor Hester-Croft believes “It isn’t just about teaching Math and Science, but why are children learning these skills. How STEM is relative in the future.”
In the morning the STEM lessons given to the teachers for their use were short projects for all ages of students aligning to various classroom lessons in the STEM areas. Teachers built simple catapults, phenakistoscopes, and made bracelets with their names beaded in binary code. “Providing teachers with quality STEM training may directly influence student engagement to learn about current and future technology,” stated Thomas Bokelman, Special Education Teacher.
The afternoon session was more online work covering Computational Thinking, Coding and Web development, and Geographical Information Systems (GIS). Teachers looked at all of these systems and talked about how they are developed and how to use them in the classroom.
All of these projects are STEM activities students can do without using specific technology. Associate Professor Hester-Croft provided training in the use of preprogrammed Makey Makey kits. These kits, created by two Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) students, allow students with no coding experience to make any conductive material act as the input device for a computer. Thus creating a 21st Century classroom environment encouraging students to experiment as they start to learn coding. Lessons and projects such as these support the enrichment components of the Wyoming Bridges Extended Day Programs in SCSD#1.
Sweetwater County School District #1 Extended Day Programs typically focus on working with students who are at-risk of not showing mastery in certain content areas and therefore receive additional support. The ninth through twelfth-grade levels also include credit recovery in their programs allowing students to regain credit in a specific course. Aaron Huff, Secondary Classroom Teacher noted,
“This [STEM training] has shown innovative ways to tap into students’ interests to enhance learning.”
These programs help at-risk students gain important academic skills without which they may not reach college and career readiness. “Our students are the future. We need to give them the tools to be the creative inventors, engineers and problem solvers that will shape our world. STEM gives us these tools,” commented Crystal Richardson, Fourth Grade Teacher.
Without the funds provided by the Wyoming Bridges Grant interventions for at-risk students would not be possible.
These and other STEM projects can help engage students with the classroom lessons. The Wyoming Bridges Grant funding made this training possible by funding the classroom substitute wages, the training as well as providing Makey Makey kits for each teacher to take back to their classroom to use with students.
The Wyoming Bridges Grant provides funding opportunities to school districts for intervention programs for students beyond required student-teacher contact hours.
In Sweetwater County School District #1 each school has the opportunity to make use of this grant to provide funding for before, after, and summer school programs.
For more information on the Wyoming Bridges Grant, please visit the SCSD #1 website (sweetwater1.org) and click on Parent & Community then click on Grants-Supporting Student Learning to access the Grants informational webpage. Wyoming Bridges information can also be found on the Wyoming Department of Education website (edu.wyoming.gov) by hovering over Beyond The Classroom, then choosing Grants from the drop down menu.