There has been much excitement at Kingsway Christian School lately. Why? The STEM labs are open! There is lots of talk in our nations’ schools about STEM making better learning experiences for children and helping students in the USA re-gain their place as world innovators in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. That is a big dream to fulfill, but how does that translate to Hendricks County, Indiana?
What is STEM and what does it look like when it is working?
It all begins with asking questions. Together, we learn to ask good questions: What do we already know? What do we need to find out? Where can we find answers? How can we test that answer? How do we know it is true? How can we persist when something does not work? Can we do that faster? How can we share with someone else? By learning to ask good questions, we discover quality answers. Better than that, we discover the brilliance in each other!
STEM is a pathway to raising up students who have the confidence to apply what they know to make a difference in the Hendricks County community and in the world. At KCS our approach to STEM is different. Students need time to tinker, time to think through solutions and time to pursue options and make connections. Through posing challenging problems, we can show students how to become resilient when early attempts don’t work. Teachers guide alongside students who are engaged and take initiative. Inquiry and interest drives success. Small class sizes at KCS create access and encourage growth for everyone.
At KCS, STEM means: Solving Problems, Thinking it Through, Engaging Everyone and Making a Difference. Science, technology, engineering and math are becoming integrated throughout the curriculum from kindergarten through eighth grade. Hammers, nails, boards and string become art. Robots and coding become spelling words, Legos become letters and 3-D design tools, 2-liter bottles become shrimp hatcheries and terrariums and cardboard…well, you never know what cardboard will become.
Any classroom, hallway or lab can be a STEM space.
Designing for a purpose and incorporating problem-solving is becoming a way of life at Kingsway. No lazy learning here! Students are actively investigating, and teachers are coaching meaningfully. Both are engaged in thinking and problem-solving. By teaching engineering and design process, students learn productive teamwork where each member honors his or her commitment to the project. On any given day, classes might be making root beer from dry ice and organic flavors, coding robots for battle or tying quilts as gifts for the homeless in our community. Lego walls and magnet walls are featured in one lab, while presentation centers and collaboration spaces are favorites in another. Yet another space introduces students to Makerspace.
The Kingsway “makerspaces” are in the early stages of being fully equipped and readied for projects. A project library is being developed to challenge students to use DYI (do it yourself) skills. Kids are learning to use hand tools properly and are showing they can handle a wide range of basic “maker” skills. We are beginning to carve out time for imagination and curiosity. Our young makers have the chance to imagine and incubate new ideas. They are productive, inquisitive and they celebrate other makers.
It takes special people to create an environment for this kind of active learning. KCS staff initiated the goal of leading Kingsway to become STEM certified. They took on the challenge of incorporating critical thinking into every area. Teachers worked hard at learning and creating. Several attended a week-long technology conference, 20 staff members spent a full day learning coding for robotics, while still others put time and imagination into developing tasks and projects for students.
Kingsway families and donors were inspired by teachers and believed strongly in adding the STEM focus to KCS. Amazingly, in just 90 days, KCS families and donors gave more than $65,000 for three new laboratories. These labs were resourced 100 percent from donor funding and matching grants, prepared 100 percent by volunteers and are 100 percent ready for students to stay busy.
The Kingsway STEM program is not really a program at all. It is a way of innovating and demonstrating critical thinking actively. It is engaging and requires working together. At KCS we see STEM as a route to joyful learning. Yes, we will continue our 40-year tradition of preparing our students for next steps in core subject areas. And yes, we see them succeed in science, technology, engineering and math. But we want something bigger. We want learning that transfers beyond the test. We want to guide collaboration between students that develops into building community among students.
From this comes respect and celebration that points to our Creator God. Kingsway is a community that God has blessed. We believe that’s a community worth looking into. Come join us! Schedule your personalized tour and Student Shadow Day today! Call Shannon Yeater at 317-272-2227.