ANDERSON — One of the curriculum standards for elementary students in Indiana is computer science. To help them learn not just computer science but other science, technology, engineering and mathematics standards, Anderson Community Schools has adopted Project Lead the Way coursework.
According to Andrea Meadows, the elementary eLearning instructional coach with ACS, the district started testing out PLTW coursework in certain classrooms before the pandemic, with all Grades K-6 teachers now participating.
“We were already doing it (PLTW) at the middle school and high school so we basically could just extend it downward and have continuity in what we were doing,” she said.
Each nine weeks, students delve into a different STEM lesson. Each lesson provides three hands-on activities that help students solve problems, Meadows said.
“Each of them has a topic, like third grade has weather and flight and things like that,” she said, noting that each grade level has different topics and standards.
To supplement learning in the classroom, Meadows has been reaching out to various community partners to provide out-of-the-classroom experiences.
Currently, Ivy Tech Community College’s STEM mobile lab is making its way to all ACS elementaries to provide students with a hands-on activity related to their classroom lesson.
On the STEM mobile lab, students get demonstrations about a wide range of topics including electricity, robotics and programming, then get to participate in an activity.
One demonstration that students get to partake in is attempting to pick up a small object using a robotic claw.
The STEM mobile lab also lets students access technology they might not have otherwise, Meadows noted.
Going forward, Eloka Agwuegbo, information technology faculty member and mobile STEM lab coordinator at Ivy Tech, hopes to expand the operation by training teachers how to use the technology on the mobile lab.
Because he runs the mobile lab and has teaching duties at the college, he hopes having trained school teachers could expand the number of students who experience the lab.
“Everybody can do what I do, but maybe they might not have the equipment,” he said, though no decision has been made about his idea.
According to Agwuegbo, Ivy Tech wants to invest in youth so they are more knowledgeable about these types of careers before they reach high school.
“Exposing them to coding and all these (things) at a young age (might) spark that interest.”
Terry Adamson, another Ivy Tech faculty member who helps out with the STEM mobile lab, expanded on Agwuegbo’s thoughts and said youth need more exposure to technology.
“Our kids hardly know everything about technology even though they have a Gameboy in their hand,” he said.
Adamson noted that the mobile unit will help students advance their knowledge coming out of the pandemic, where learning was hindered for a majority of students.
Meadows is impressed with the work the mobile lab has done and hopes to keep this partnership going. She also hopes ACS can develop more community partners to help provide students with these types of learning experiences.