MUSKEGON, MI — First graders at Bunker Elementary School were in awe as they walked into the school’s brand new STEAM lab for the very first time on Thursday.
Featuring new computers, robotic equipment, a 3D printer and cabinets full of gadgets for hands-on experiments, the $250,000 Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math (STEAM) Lab was unveiled to attendees. elementary school students K-5 Muskegon School.
“Wow! the class of first-graders exclaimed in unison as they checked out the lab’s colorful artwork and flashy new gear during their first STEAM class on the morning of February 9.
Janell Carr, Bunker’s new STEAM teacher, gave the youngsters a tour of the new facilities before introducing them to their first task: to split into pairs and use the lab’s new Geometric Shapes Kits to create unique shapes from rods and of connectors.
Students got creative during their build time, bending and shaping the rods into letters, shapes and animals, including a spider and an octopus.
Six-year-old Ca’mia Bonner built a flower, while 7-year-old Jyaire Hughes built two spheres he claimed were a mind control device. Hughes said the part he was most excited about in the new STEAM lab was the 3D printer.
“It was awesome,” he said. “When I grow up, I’ll try to buy one and make Pokémon statues.”
Bunker Elementary’s new lab is one of three STEAM labs the district plans to build in its three elementary school buildings. The district is using federal COVID-19 relief dollars as well as bond financing to build the new labs.
“The launch of our Bunker STEAM Lab is an important step in transforming MPS into a modern, career-focused K-12 educational leader that will be unparalleled in Michigan,” said Muskegon Superintendent, Matthew Cortez.
“Research shows that the best way to increase STEAM learning and interest while creating equity in math and science achievement is through an immersive, project-based, hands-on environment.”
Muskegon Public Schools is using the Smartlab HQ curriculum for the new STEAM Lab, which offers more than 400 lessons in digital animation, circuits, robotic coding, using data sensors and simple machines, said Carr.
By the time Bunker students graduate from fifth grade, they will have been exposed to classes on various technological systems such as mechanics and structures, sustainability, digital communication and more, she said.
“The opportunities that kids are going to have here as they leave primary school and go on to college, it’s just amazing to think about,” she said.
STEAM learning is designed to build resilience and teamwork skills in students, as well as foster creativity, apply technology, and teach ways to solve problems, while using level content knowledge. elementary, according to Muskegon Public Schools.
Part of the reason the district is implementing STEAM labs in all of its elementary schools now is because of the pandemic, Bunker Elementary Principal Okeelah McBride explained.
Students have adapted to learning with technology while staying at home during the peak of the pandemic, and schools have had to figure out how to adapt to that, she said.
“One of the things we noticed coming back to schools, post-COVID, is that our students were much more tech-savvy than they were before COVID,” McBride said. “We had to find a way to keep them engaged.
Carr said she thinks education will have to adapt to technology to keep up with the world.
“It’s absolutely the future of education,” Carr said. “I feel like it could create a lot of opportunities for other districts in our area to come here and check this place out and support their students in the same way.”
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