“I really enjoy that there are more hands-on activities here,” said Light, one of 50 Batavia School District 101 students enrolled at the STEM Partnership School. “I was very excited about coming here.”
John C. Dunham STEM Partnership School is based at Aurora University in Aurora. STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and math.
The school serves students in third through eighth grades in the East Aurora, Indian Prairie, West Aurora and Batavia school districts. Batavia students started attending the school this fall after the Batavia School Board voted to join the school.
John C. Dunham STEM Partnership School Director Arin Carter said STEM education is all about integrating different subjects and applying them to real-world problems.
“Students work in collaborative groups to answer those real-world problems with hands-on discovery,” she said. “Everything in the building is mobile. Kids don’t just sit at their desks and get lectured to. We want them to collaborate and learn how to work together.”
That collaboration goes beyond their peer groups, Carter said.
“We have third-grade students collaborating with college students,” she said. “The idea is to build that comfort level.”
According to the Washington, D.C.-based STEM Education Coalition, the nation’s future economic prosperity closely is linked with student success in the STEM fields. By 2020, the demand for STEM professionals will add more than 1 million new STEM jobs to the United States’ workforce, according to the coalition.
STEM school fourth-grade teacher Elizabeth McAlpin, who had taught at Rotolo Middle School in Batavia before coming to the STEM Partnership School, is a firm believer in STEM education and how it can be used to get kids more excited about learning.
She pointed to a recent discussion about the atom as an example.
“We can integrate math, we can talk about the history of it, we’ve done nonfiction reading, so all of those subjects are integrated,” McAlpin said. “The kids are certainly excited about what they are learning, and when they are excited about it, I think it is easier for them to learn different topics.”
Students then talk about what they have learned in a weekly newsletter that is sent home to their parents. Fourth-grade student Mason Hendricks, of Batavia, said he is looking forward to learning about electricity. He said he is enjoying his experience at the school.
“Once you meet the teachers, it’s fun,” he said. “It has awesome technology.”
Carter said she sees the school continuing to evolve to meet the students’ needs.
“We really want to make sure that our curriculum doesn’t become stagnant, but that we evolve with our students,” she said.