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A new concept of learning has developed throughout the state, and Orchard Public Schools is taking the initiative to bring technology projects to its classrooms.
In hopes of improving teaching methods, Orchard fifth grade teacher Jana Wilhelm attended a two week class over the summer focusing on STEM (science, technology, engineering, math).
This program was supported by the Nebraska Mathematics and Science Partnership Grant as well as the State Department of Education. To begin the training, four to five teachers throughout the state were chosen to be leaders to expand new ideas throughout different regions in the state, Wilhelm said.
“I think the biggest lesson for the kids will be that failure is okay as long as you’re learning and making progress. Just like a muscle gets stronger and bigger the more you use it. That is true too of your brain. The more you use it, the more connections you make. You learn more from struggle than you do from success,” she said.
With these realistic scenarios, students are able to use their everyday knowledge within the school and teachers can use current trends to interest their students. Wilhelm explained that in one of her conferences, a teacher told about an experiment they used with fidget spinners.
Among the many ways to incorporate STEM, Wilhelm said during trainings they have made glue, bridges and origami frogs. They’ve also tested airplanes and other creations. The idea, she said, is to utilize all of the STEM classes in a hands-on manner to better engage students.
“All of the trends and new technology of today can be used as a learning tool. Students are more interested and learn about the results they are getting and why they are getting those results,” she said.
The STEM method has been established in hopes to transform classrooms throughout the states. The STEM coalition has said the U.S. needs to improve the way students learn in each of the areas of science, technology, engineering and math.
To continue this development, the project is providing four Saturdays throughout the school year for teachers to learn more. Last Saturday marked the first of the workshops, which Wilhelm attended at the Nebraska Teachers of Science Association Conference. It was announced there that the Nebraska State Legislature had passed the new curriculum.
Following this announcement, Wilhelm presented the approved curriculum to the Orchard Advisory Board to show how it could improve the school’s teaching methods.
“We can really dig deep into the process of each topic. It is really the idea of integrating all these subject areas so that you can cover so much more,” she said.
Now, even though the transition will be big in the next couple years, Wilhelm is certain this new curriculum will help students even more. She explained that throughout her years of teaching she has always used a more hands-on technique when teaching, but this concept is to the next level. Not only is this idea more hands-on, but it is made to teach students about trial and error. To Wilhelm, the idea of teaching kids this lesson is very important in their educational development.
The flexibility of these topics allows each of them to mesh and the ability to collaborate is easy. With this ability, teachers can bring their classrooms together and are able to provide dual lessons. Wilhelm explained that classrooms are able to use the same teaching methods but raise or lower the difficulty level based on the class.
“As teachers, I think we are doing a better job of integrating our classrooms and all of the subjects,” Wilhelm stated.
From making her own speakers to creating bridges, Wilhelm is excited for her upcoming workshops and what she can bring back to the classroom. The new STEM standards are going to slowly change our education for the better, she said.