Carmel Clay Schools is replacing its weekly IT curriculum for elementary students with a STEM class designed to inspire the district’s youngest learners to become innovators.
STEM, which stands for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, aims to teach students how to integrate disciplines through hands-on problem solving.
“We study math in silos or science in silos, but in the real world it’s embedded,” said CCS curriculum director Rhonda Peterson. “We’re creating this problem-based learning environment for students where they see how math is applied to the real world.”
Peterson said the STEM special will teach some of the same skills and concepts learned in computer science classes, but student needs and knowledge have changed in recent years.
“When the special computer lab was created, there was a different need at the time. We weren’t a 1-to-1 district (with students having their own device), and students were learning how to use a device and how to use computer apps,” Peterson said. “Now that we’re a 1-to-1 district, students carry a device with them all day, so it’s part of what they do.”
Students will work together to solve problems during the STEM course. In a third-grade module, for example, students will explore a scenario about rescuing a trapped tiger at the zoo using simple machines such as a wheel and axle, a lever and an inclined plane.
Kristine Amick will be the first STEM teacher at Clay Center Elementary, a new campus opening for the 2021-22 school year. She said she looked forward to using the school’s flexible spaces in the new building as students work together to explore STEM principles.
“They will find their spark, what drives them and what they would like to pursue further,” Amick said.
Jay Vahle, a CCS teacher since 1993, has long been an advocate for STEM education. He will be the first STEM teacher at Woodbrook Elementary.
“Having the opportunity for kids to see the STEM environment on a regular basis really allows us to move forward and let them be excited about what their future could be,” Vahle said.
CCS elementary schools use the STEM curriculum from Indianapolis-based Project Lead the Way, which creates programs used in middle and high schools in Carmel.
“We think we’re coming full circle in completing this K-12 science and engineering spectrum,” Peterson said. “We have been partners with (PLTW) for a long time, so we are delighted to offer it to our youngest learners.”