Saint Lucas students explore tomorrow’s careers through new STEM program
November 30, 2015
By Sheila Julson
Employment in occupations related to science, technology, engineering and math will grow to more than 9 million between 2012 and 2022, according to a 2014 U. S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report.
To prepare students for tomorrow’s workplace, Saint Lucas Lutheran School, 648 E. Dover St., introduced STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) in its sixth through eight-grade curriculum beginning in January. Over the summer, two classrooms were converted to a new STEM lab, complete with a large 3D printer, height-adjustable desks, Dell desktop computers, drill press, band saw, and more. A dedication ceremony was held Oct. 11.
Wendy Greenfield, spokesperson for Saint Lucas, said the project has been in the works for a few years. “We wanted a new science curriculum,“ she said. “We had a team that researched and looked at different programs at many schools. It became clear that Project Lead the Way was the way to go.”
Project Lead the Way (PLTW) is a national nonprofit that delivers STEM programs to public, private, and charter schools throughout the country. In January, Saint Lucas began PLTW’s Gateway to Technology program, which focuses on engineering, biomedical, and computer science for sixth through eight grades.
At the beginning of this school year, Saint Lucas added PLTW’s Launch, a program geared for kindergarten through fifth grade, which focuses on problem solving. This is the first year Launch has been available nationwide, Greenfield said.
“We wanted to ensure that our students are college- and career-ready and that they could develop 21st century skills such as problem solving, critical thinking, and collaboration,” said Greenfield. “That’s what this program does.”
Saint Lucas’ $400,000 STEM lab was funded by grants from foundations, individuals, and businesses, including the Theodore W. Batterman Family Foundation, the Siebert Lutheran Foundation, and the Louis Calder Foundation, Greenfield said.
“We’re thankful and feel blessed to have this program here in our school,” said Mike Koestler, Saint Lucas principal. “The hands-on and project-based approach of PLTW is very engaging for the students, and they have fun learning.“
Andy Baxter, middle school teacher and PLTW delegate, guided students as they took their creations from paper to reality. “They can see how engaging science is,” Baxter said. “Other teachers are now being asked (by the students), ‘When’s science?’ and not ‘When’s recess?’ or ‘When’s lunch?’ The students want to learn.”
This is Baxter’s first experience teaching a PLTW STEM curriculum. He said instructor training consists of a three-day period for the K5 through fifth grade level. The middle-school-level training is three to five days per course. There are six courses for STEM middle school grades.
Kindergarten students, after listening to The Three Little Pigs, discussed and built structures for houses that could protect the pigs from the huffs and puffs of the wolf. First graders experience astronomy by using the iPad app Star Chart to locate constellations. In second grade, students examined properties of matter and built coolers to slow the transfer of heat from an ice cube to prevent it from melting. Third graders began the year by studying aspects of flight including lift, weight, thrust, and drag. Fourth graders examined collisions, including safety restraint systems to keep their passenger—an egg—safe. The fifth graders delved into robotics and automation by designing, building, and driving robots, via remote control, to move hazardous material.
The Compass stopped by Saint Lucas to see some of the ongoing projects the sixth through eighth grade students are working on, which involve tools such as Autodesk Inventor, a program used by professional architects, and the 3D printer, to bring their projects to life.
Seventh grader Isabella Delwiche, said her experience with STEM has inspired her to plan to pursue a career in computer technology. She is intrigued by the 3D printer. “I think it’s pretty cool because if you have an idea about something, you can actually make it and be able to hold it and not just see it on paper,” she said.
Sixth graders Jordan Otto and Carmelo Ortiz partnered to design a Christmas tree-shaped switch plate. “You can change colors and textures, or move it to see the full image,” Ortiz said as he used the mouse to point to their design on the computer screen.
The switch plate was originally sketched on graph paper. “It’s an asymmetric sketch to figure the different stages of the project,” Otto added. The pair took measurements from a real switch plate on the wall, and then used a caliper to measure the sketch and transfer the dimensions to the computer design.
“The tree with the triangle shape is more complicated because we had to make sure it covered all the wires, or else someone would get electrocuted,” Otto said.
Some students were using Autodesk to sculpt replicas of fossils. “It’s like they’re actually taking a piece of clay and molding it or modeling it,” Baxter said.
Student Kaysha Henry, who designed a bowl, said she enjoys art. Autodesk lets her choose the design material, colors, and sizes for her fossil.
Other students used the ROBOTC tutorial and VEX Robotics kits to make Clawbots—robots with a functioning claw. Baxter said their goal is to get the Clawbots fully functioning for upcoming robotics competitions.
As some students test-drove their robots-in-progress, others used a 3D pen to create an image of the Eiffel Tower. A thick pen prints plastic lines by heating and melting a thin tube of plastic inserted at one end. A motor inside the pen pushes out a line of plastic onto the paper. The plastic images dry, are peeled from the paper, and assembled to stand upright.
Other seventh and eight grade students are working on projects related to flight and space, and energy, and the environment.
Baxter said Saint Lucas is working on networking with small businesses who would send representatives to the students about STEM-related careers. Greenfield added they welcome any business owners who may be interested in a potential partnership.
Saint Lucas has open houses throughout the year when STEM projects are showcased. Greenfield said members of the community who are interested in seeing the STEM lab should contact the school to arrange a tour.
Founded: Saint Lucas Lutheran School opened in 1872 shortly after Captain Eber Brock Ward opened the Milwaukee Iron Company in 1868. The Village of Bay View was incorporated in 1879.
Enrollment: 204 students in K3 – Grade 8
STEM: All student in K5 through Grade 8 participate in the Project Lead The Way or STEM program.
Choice School: Saint Lucas has participated in Milwaukee Parental Choice Program since 2007. According to Wendy Greenfield, school spokesperson, “The school’s financial aid program ensures that students from all backgrounds are able to take advantage of and contribute to the Saint Lucas community. Tuition is $7,750. Congregation members do their part to assist the neighborhood by making up the difference between what families can afford to pay and the actual cost to educate a student.”
MPS STEM Programs in Bay View
In Bay View, MPS schools that offer Project Lead the Way are Bay View Middle & High School and Humboldt Park School.
Trowbridge School of Discovery and Technology and Fernwood Montessori both engage in technology programming although neither school offers traditional STEM or Project Lead the Way programs.
Trowbridge is in the process of installing an aquaponics lab funded by a grant from the National Education Association. Trowbridge is one of only two MPS schools to receive such a grant.
Fernwood began operating its greenhouse and aquaponics system in 2007.
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