October 27: STEM at the Middle School

October 27, 2017

Hello, Black River Falls community!  This is Dr. Shelly Severson with the School District of Black River Falls here to share this week's installment of our Spotlight on Schools!  Today we are going to talk briefly about our new STEM class at the middle school. While you may hear STEM, and think of something growing out of the ground, it is an acronym used to describe a more hands-on project-based approach to teaching and learning.  It stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math, and is meant to incorporate or apply each of those critical thinking areas into one course.

Why is STEM important?  According to the US Department of Commerce, STEM occupations are growing at a rate of 17%, while other occupations are growing at 9.8%.  It is clear that most jobs of the future will require a basic understanding of math and science. Technology is continuously expanding into every aspect of our lives, whether we appreciate that or not!

Engineering is the basic designs of roads and bridges, but also tackles the challenges of changing global weather and environmentally-friendly changes to our home.  Mathematics is in every occupation and every activity we do in our lives.  By exposing all of our Middle School students to STEM and giving them opportunities to explore STEM-related concepts, they will hopefully develop a passion for it and make high school course selections that will help to further this interest, thus leading them to post-secondary education and an excellent career field after that.

A curriculum that is STEM-based has real-life situations to help the students learn.  These hands-on and critical thinking lessons get to the idea of applying all of the skills to solve a problem, as opposed to memorization.  At Black River Falls Middle School, we have added a STEM class to each of the three grade levels.  Mr. Werner, new to us this year, meets with the students for one semester in each grade level.  Moving forward, this means that by the time the students are in high school, they will already have had three semesters of this type of critical thinking instruction.

Many believe that unless the United States continues to increase the amount of STEM education and exposure, across all students, the United States will continue to fall behind the global market in innovation.  The real power of STEM education is the incorporation of all of these areas--science, technology, engineering, and math--to empower our students to be true problem solvers not simply to score well on a math test.  An example may be to ask students to produce a judging strategy based on the accuracy and flight time of paper airplanes.  Our students are spending some time learning about computer coding.  This means they could build a robot and a maze, and learn the mechanics behind its movements.

In short, we are excited by this addition to our middle school offerings.  Unfortunately, one of our greatest challenges is sometimes engaging and motivating students that don’t find their academic work relevant to their plans.  This is a class that we feel won’t have this problem!

As always, thank you so much for your support of the School District of Black River Falls!  If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact me!  Let’s show our Tiger Pride in all that we do!

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