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Two middle schools starting STEM programs

Snelson-Golden, Frank Long plan camp, lessons

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POSTED: March 17, 2014 9:45 a.m.

Frank Long Elementary and Snelson-Golden Middle schools soon will initiate learning programs designed to promote science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).
FLE plans to hold a weeklong summer camp from 9 a.m. to noon June 9-13 for 100 rising fourth- and fifth-graders.  SGMS will begin a two-week pilot program April 21 to develop a research curriculum and form partnerships with scientists and engineers.
FLE Principal Judy Hellgren and SGMS Assistant Principal Dr. Bernadette Crow presented plans for their schools’ STEM initiatives Tuesday during a school-board meeting.
School Superintendent Dr. Valya S. Lee informed school-board members that the U.S. government plans to spend $3 billion on STEM-education programs this year. Lee said there is a perceived lack of qualified candidates for high-tech jobs in the American workforce.
“The Department of Commerce notes STEM career fields are some of the best-paying and have the greatest potential for job growth in the early 21st century,” Lee said.
The superintendent and board members applauded school administrators for pursuing STEM initiatives.
Frank Long’s summer camp, STEAM, will include fine-arts activities along with STEM learning opportunities, Hellgren said. The principal said children will be introduced to robotics using specialized Legos and will learn to write computer code.
“The code they write will be burned to a disk and they can take it home,” Hellgren said.
Campers also can learn to dance the waltz and rumba, and to play the recorder and hand bells, she said. Hellgren added a retired Liberty County High School teacher has offered camp instructors the use of a kiln so children can take home pottery they make.
“Each group will stay with the same interest program for one day and rotate throughout the five days,” she told board members.
Hellgren said parents will provide students transportation to the camp, and snacks and supplies will be provided by the school’s business partner, Target.
“Teachers are volunteering to teach the classes there,” she said.
Crow said the two-week STEM module at SGMS is funded by a $700,000 grant that was awarded to Georgia Southern University for a three-year period.
“The school will receive $3,250 for this spring work,” she said. “They have already budgeted for next year the same amount. This was awarded through The Governor’s Office of Student Achievement through the Georgia Department of Education. They received the federal money from Race to the Top federal dollars.”
GSU is partnering with a number of scientific agencies that the middle school can use as resources, Crow explained. These include the Skidaway Institute of Oceanography, the University of Georgia Marine Extension Service, Ossabaw Island Educational Alliance and the Southeastern Natural Sciences Academy.
“Over the summer, they (teachers) will work with Sapelo Island and National Estuarine Research Reserve,” Crow said, referring to STEM professional development offered to the SGMS teachers during the summer. “They will be getting hands-on experience with scientific research. Gulfstream will also participate in the program (along with) other businesses and industries, giving the teachers a real-world picture of STEM in the workforce. The teachers will be working on designing a scientific-research experience for the students based on place-based learning and problem-based learning pedagogy.”
The middle school assistant principal said Debbie Walker, project coordinator for the grant, and Dr. Robert Mayes, principal investigator, are working with the school on the STEM initiative.
“Students will be developing the experimental design for the research problem,” Crow added.
She said the eighth-grade students who participate in the program will research issues that impact Liberty County, including coastal erosion, sea level rise and recycling.

 

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