Science, Technology, Engineering, & Math (STEM)
Implementing a STEM track for high school is an exciting venture filled with vast opportunities for professional development and experimentation. As we rolled out this year’s Introduction to Engineering Design course, Mr. Keith Allen, engineering teacher and former civil engineer, witnessed firsthand the interest and passion from students in the program. Each day is filled with opportunities to design and experiment in his redesigned classroom.
The curriculum used by high school STEM students is collaboratively developed and updated by subject matter experts, including teachers, university professors, engineering professionals, and curriculum designers. Students who choose to participate in this program are given a clear competitive advantage in our increasingly scientific and technologically-based economy.
The program gives an added distinction to TKA’s academic offerings and equips students with skills that will help in college admissions and in creating career options. Freshman Trent Hannan commented, “We get to use professional-level software, and we are taught practical application to skills taught in math and science.” A paradigm shift reverberates in our economy and in our educational system; it is vital to provide students with the necessary foundation to compete in high-level careers.
Whether through technical sketching, modeling techniques, 3D printing, or drafting in CAD, students thrive in this new opportunity. As senior Sean Hart explains, “Engineering is not simply another lecture class because students must solve life problems on their own; Mr. Allen gives guidance and lessons from his own engineering experience.”
TKA has a reputation for excellence in all areas of school life, and this new track successfully engages students in STEM subjects.
Elementary STEM: Building for the Future
The King’s Academy believes a robust understanding of STEM will prove invaluable to students throughout their educational journeys and future careers. Students in elementary experience an added level of creativity, critical thinking, innovation, and real-world problem solving in their STEM special. Each Kindergarten through sixth grade student benefits from this exposure, and the hands-on learning engages students on multiple levels.
Mrs. Rebekah DeProspero, elementary STEM teacher, exposes students to areas of study they may not otherwise pursue, and provides them with a foundation and a path to future success. Fourth grader Justin Wright expresses the general excitement of the program, “I like STEM because I like engineering and building things. Using the kits is very fun, and I like the critical thinking even though it is difficult sometimes.”
Partnering with the nation’s leading provider of STEM education, Project Lead the Way, is definitely a worthy investment. It provides another successful way for students to receive information, process learning, and apply the challenges to real life. Mrs. DeProspero explains that all grade levels start with a fictional story that contains a real-world problem. Throughout the lessons and projects, they gain knowledge about the topic of study and enjoy fun activities. Each unit culminates with a design challenge that goes back to the real-world problem. Students use the engineering design process to work together to discover a solution.
In the elementary STEM Lab, various projects, aligned with national standards, take place for each grade. Students use an array of supplies for their projects and access key course material through iPads. Fifth and sixth graders use robotic kits to experiment with motors and
sensors. They are busy, but it is a stimulating experience. Fifth grader Jordan Mandor reflects on the joy of learning, “I enjoy STEM Lab because you get to build stuff. Even though building the robots is hard, it is good for you because you might get a job one day.”
Learning to work in groups, following complicated directions, and creating physical solutions builds tremendous confidence in students, and TKA is thrilled by the emerging results of STEM education.
Highlights of Explore
This semester, the Explore students have had many direct, first-hand experiences designed to increase critical thinking skills. Students are learning to apply these processes to the world around them. Explore activities are interest driven and developed to motivate students toward learning and staying curious about the world in which they live!
The Explore program kicked off the year using K’NEX building sets to get firsthand experiences with engineering design and Newton’s Laws of Motion. Students were challenged to build a strong functional vehicle that could travel a distance of a least 5 meters in a straight line. students designed gravity powered vehicles and had a K’NEX Grand Prix to test the efficiency and speed of their designs. Third graders took it a step further making motorized vehicles out of K’NEX. Third graders were also introduced to the basics of electricity and built various electrical circuits using SnapCircuits. Students then learned the steps of a fair test by designing an electromagnet and testing variables to change its strength. Fifth and sixth grade students continued to develop critical thinking skills through deeper inquiry into projectile motion, the flight of rockets, inertia, and the flight of satellites. Students build devices to accurately set the angle of a K’NEX Rocket Launcher.