By CHRISTY ARMSTRONG
Charleston Elementary School now has a dedicated lab space where students can experience activities related to science, technology, engineering, art …
Charleston Elementary School now has a dedicated lab space where students can experience activities related to science, technology, engineering, art and math
Educators and students recently held an event to show off the new Charleston Elementary STEAM Lab, which they said was the culmination of a dream.
“I am really excited about all the ways it can be used,” Principal Candice Belt said.
Years ago, the building the elementary school is now using housed a high school as well. For years, portions of the building remained the same as it had been then.
This included the school’s science lab, which still had workstations with gas burners more appropriate for 17-year-olds than 7-year-olds.
Belt said it had been a “dream” of hers since taking the helm there to turn this outdated lab into a space that would be useful for students of all ages. Thanks to several community donors, that dream is now a reality.
The old lab tables and stools were removed and replaced with tables and stools which are more functional for younger students. The room was also painted and redecorated. However, the biggest changes came in the form of new technology.
Classes now have access to a cart of Chromebook laptop computers, a cart of iPad tablet computers, a MakerBot Plus 3D printer, and a 60-inch Sharp Aquos touchscreen display monitor.
“We are really excited for all this new technology and are still ordering more equipment and supplies,” said Belt.
This lab is now available to classes on a sign-up basis, but Belt said she expects more teachers will be integrating the lab and its technology into their lessons.
Donors also got to hear educators talk about how this lab is already benefitting students.
Fourth-grade teacher Tony Womac stressed that the lab offers more space and technology that can be used for hands-on projects. By learning in this way, students can better develop their critical thinking and problem-solving skills.
As the focus will be on STEAM-related activities, he also sees the lab as a good place to help students learn more about future careers.
“What you’re providing here … is an opportunity to grow beyond the classroom,” said Womac.
Denise George, the school’s media specialist, spoke about the fact that the school already one 3D printer, housed in the school library.
George said she wanted the library to have this extra piece of technology, because she expected it would fascinate students and help them make connections to subjects like science in their reading.
Because she was able to see how just one 3D printer made learning exciting for students, she said she is “thrilled” to see how the new lab and its technology will encourage students to explore STEAM subjects.
“There’s a lot going on in our classrooms and our library – and now, in our STEAM Lab,” George said.
Ashley Clayton, a kindergarten teacher, said the STEAM Lab will be beneficial even to the school’s youngest students.
While activities in kindergarten are usually guided by the teacher, Clayton said the new lab provides the space needed for activities which allow students to discover things on their own.
For example, kindergarteners have already participated in activities which have involved planning and building a fence for “Little Bo Peep’s sheep” and using Skittles candy and water to learn about colors and color mixing.
“It gives them a little time to work independently,” Clayton said. “They’re being creative as they learn.”
Guidance counselor Leah Walker also spoke of how the lab is beneficial for a variety of activities — not just regular classroom lessons.
Walker described how she had used the lab to teach students about anxiety and stress. She touched on the science behind these human reactions. While learning about healthy ways to handle anxiety and stress, students were able to make their own stress balls.
Belt said she likes that the new lab provides space where educators can connect the dots between the different subjects students are learning. Pointing to Walker’s activity, she noted students are often learning more than one skill at a time.
“My big focus has been connected learning,” Belt said. “This will help us continue in that and look for new ways to connect what students are learning.”
Guests also enjoyed remarks from four Charleston Elementary students: Amelia Debord, Sawyer Criswell, Bella Southerland and Braden Calton. Each spoke about his or her favorite lab activities so far.
All the educators and students thanked everyone who donated to help renovate and equip the new STEAM Lab.
Donors include: Olin Chlor Alkali, Wacker Polysilicon North America, Wright Brothers Construction, CS Foundation Inc., First Tennessee Bank Community Development Fund, Manufacturers Chemicals LLC, Nancy Casson, Town Squire Men’s Wear, Carl Colloms, Southern Heritage Bank, Haney Meats, Lonza and Resolute Forest Products.
Ron Braam, chair of the Bradley Cleveland Public Education Foundation’s business/corporate committee, echoed the thanks offered by the school’s representatives. He added that the donors were “making an investment” in their community by giving.
Education is important, he noted, because it teaches students the skills they need for their future careers. He added this STEAM Lab will help with the school’s educational mission, while also exposing children to technology at an early age.
“We hope that we can recreate this in other community schools,” said Braam.
“My big focus has been connected learning. This will help us continue in that and look for new ways to connect what students are learning.” — Candice Belt
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