New STEAM lab in High School

Pictured above is the Discovery Center SmartLab, installed at Lodi High School in 2018.

In response to Technology Integrator Tyler Potter’s overview of the district’s STEAM project on Monday, Sept. 9, Lodi Board of Education members and administrators came away impressed with the curriculum and amazed that a lot had been done in a really short period of time.

“Three years ago, I never dreamed that we’d have what we’ve got and have it now,” School Board member Steven Ricks said. “So that’s very awesome.”

And District Administrator Charles Pursell lauded the efforts of district staff, “Where you’ve taken our district in just over three years from basically having nothing to having all this, including the one and only Discovery Lab in the Upper Midwest.”

The district has STEAM Labs operating in the elementary and middle schools and a Fabrication Lab at the high school.

According to Potter, at Lodi Elementary and OSC School, “Last year we got our space for the first time and I basically cobbled together whatever I could find and created a lab. This year we were fortunate enough to have funding to create stations.” Those stations address coding, structures and mechanics, robotics, 3D design and printing, circuitry and digital communications.

Potter said students at this level should expect to use the lab one hour period every six school days. Students work at their own pace to “develop critical thinking skills, working with other people and being creative as you go through the process”.

“I’m guiding myself, more or less,” Potter said. “There’s always a facilitator there, but it’s designed so a student will read, think and figure things out on their own. That’s our big point of the STEAM Lab, to be able to figure things out on their own.”

According to Potter, the Middle School Steam Lab has 17 stations is a comparable arrangement.

“The newest addition at the high school is our Fabrication Lab,” he said. “The goal right now is not to have just a “Fab Lab class”. It’s to have Fab Lab equipment available to anybody in technology education and interweave it into everything else. We don’t want to lose the traditional technology education aspect of that department.”

The Advanced CAD class will have access to several different CAD programs. Second semester, the Fab Lab will be used by the manufacturing classes, as well.

Potter said the goal is to not only narrowly focus on the specific curricular areas of science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics.

“Mr. Licht is working on making a connection to all the schools in the district,” he said. “When this is fully functional, teachers and staff can place orders with Mr. Licht and his classes will make vinyl stickers.” In the future, area parents and their young children might be invited in to work on projects and experience “the only high school level smart lab in the Upper Midwest” for themselves.

Administrator Pursell said the benefits of the labs extend beyond specific subject areas by “creating new and what I call challenging curricula in the area of problem solving and critical thinking skills”.

Ricks added, “To me, especially as an employer of engineers, it’s the ability to teach kids first and foremost, ‘Why am I learning this?’ STEAM Labs directly translate what I’m learning in calculus, algebra, English and science. What we’re going to do for kids in this district is unbelievable.”

In other matters, Business Manager Brent Richter presented an update on the district’s draft 2019-2020 budget. He explained that the district is waiting on enrollment figures from the Department of Public Instruction’s Third Friday (in September) student count and certification of the equalized value of property in the district.

The Board took the next step toward identifying a new district administrator. It approved a cover letter and RFP soliciting proposals from superintendent search firms.

The Board also decided to meet with representatives of the curling, cross-country and equestrian teams to discuss the status of “affiliated sports” in the Lodi School District.

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