July 31, 2018
By KEITH RYAN CARTWRIGHT
Rutherford County Schools
A yearlong process to transition the new STEM Resource Center at John Colemon Elementary Annex from the Hand-on Science at Walter Hill Elementary School will culminate this week with an open house in which Rutherford County educators are encouraged to visit at their convenience.
The open house will take place Aug 1-3 from 3-5 p.m. each day.
“Hands-on Science is a great thing,” said Stephanie Finley, a science specialist for pre-K through eighth grade. “However, we’re adopting new science standards, which lend themselves more toward engineering and technology — STEM.
“Our new STEM center (will) help enhance the teaching of the new science standards, enabling our students to explore science in a variety of ways.”
The new center’s purpose is to provide resources to support science teachers.
In addition to the materials that are available for checkout, teachers and instructors can also signup for training sessions and modeling lessons, with the focus now on student-led and teacher-facilitated activities.
Materials are sorted into four main rooms divided by disciplinary core ideas — Earth and space science, physical science, life science, and engineering and technology.
For instance, one lesson — No Bones About It — includes lessons about the human body system, but an instructor could also add a lesson in which students learn how to create a knee brace for someone injured on a hiking trip.
In keeping with new STEM standards, the lesson is a combination of biotechnology and life science.
The new online checkout can be found HERE. In addition to checking out resources, the newly designed webpage also provides a standards guide, lesson resources and training opportunities.
The new resource materials have replaced outdated science kits.
The old kits were from the Smithsonian and, in fact, some had been inherited from other counties.
“They had been around for a long time,” Finley said.
Unlike the new program, in which teachers request specific resources tailored to their need, they used to be limited to specific kits.
For instance, life science kits included plants, rocks and minerals. When fourth-graders studied land and water, instructors had only a couple weeks to teach the lesson and then send it back so another school could have it for the same lesson.
“We didn’t have enough for every school to get the same kit at the same time,” Finley said.
The new elementary focus is to better prepare kids for middle school, while middle school is setting students on a pathway for high school.
As a whole, it’s about problem solving, analyzing data, creating models and critical thinking.
However, the main focus is on new science.
The transition process was necessitated because Walter Hill’s enrollment has grown substantially in recent years and they needed the space being occupied by Hand-on Science. The decision was made to move it to John Colemon Elementary Annex in conjunction with the renaming and rebranding of the STEM Resource Center.
“Even though this transition has been a year-long process, it will be worth the wait,” Finley said. “This marriage of science, technology, engineering, and math that our facility embodies will enable educators to teach three-dimensionally and engage students which will support high school pathways and future career opportunities.
“Our goal in Rutherford County is to empower our students by building a generation of problem solvers and critical thinkers.”