Visit a Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) lab in a Charlotte County public school, and you will find a chaotic scene as groups of students busily construct various contraptions. They aren’t quietly sitting in their seats, nor is the teacher lecturing from the front of the room. The classroom is in a hubbub of activity and sound. The teacher moves about the room coaching and giving advice to groups on how to proceed.
STEM labs don’t replace regular academic science and math courses, but are designed to allow students the opportunity to apply their learning. Students are given a problem to solve. How do they find the solution? That is up to the team to decide.
A team will typically have four members. Each member is assigned a role and has a duty to perform. “A team will have a project manager who oversees the project, an inventory manager who is responsible for getting materials, and a technical consultants (who research)”, said Carolyn Gorton, Director of Career and Technical Education for Charlotte County Public Schools.
The team members discuss, plan, build, and then test. And discuss, plan, build, and test again. And isn’t that what happens in the real world?
With all of this experimenting and building going on, the students are also learning more than just about science and math. They are learning social skills as they jointogether to find workng solutions.
All Charlotte County public schools have STEM education, Carolyn said. Elementary school labs are equipped with all sorts of plastic mechanical parts such as rods, connectors, wheels and gears that students assemble. In the middle school, 8th grade has STEM labs. In high schools, STEM education is built into career and technical classes such as drafting, technology, agriculture, business and others, Carolyn said.
Students enjoy STEM lab. “When I tour the labs and interview students, I hear this comment daily, “This is my favorite class!’”, said Carolyn. “The students love the integration of science, math, and technology into hands-on, real world experiences.”
Are STEM labs helping students? The district doesn’t have “any real statistics on this”, Carolyn said. But “We have seen improvement in both science and math scores over the past five years and hope that it can be attributed to STEM classes.”
Currently, STEM labs are separate from the regular academic classes. For next year, the district is working on incorporating STEM into all subjects. “We hope to add more and more integration over the next few years so that components of STEM are seen in almost every class”, Carolyn said.
Charlotte County Public Schools STEM labs,
Charlotte County Public Schools Career and Technical Education
Education 101: Focusing on science, technology, engineering, and math