The concept of STEAM, or science, technology, engineering, art and math, has gained ground in education over the last few years, and the Lodi School District has kept pace. This academic year, they will open a middle school STEAM lab in the footprint of the former administrative office. STEAM lab were opened last school in the elementary school lab will open next year.

STEAM labs offer both guided classroom instruction along with opportunities for students to explore their individual interests in an unstructured environment. Fully stocked STEAM labs follow the SMART lab model provided by Creative Learning Systems, a Colorado-based educational consultant.

A team of teachers and administrators began researching the idea of bringing STEAM labs to Lodi schools about three years ago. They visited labs in East Troy, Wis., and Omaha, Neb., among others. The team included technology integrator Tyler Potter, High School Principal Vince Breunig, high school math teachers Matthew Horan and Derek Pertzborn, middle school technology education teacher Mark Schirra, library media specialist Paula Tonn, and others.

The labs are paid for through a variety of sources — low-interest loans from the state, grants, budgeted funds and fundraisers. The high school lab was funded through a five-year low-interest loan from the state Department of Public Instruction. The high school purchased a package for the SMART lab that includes furniture, equipment and curriculum.

Three STEAM classes are offered at the high school. STEAM 1 is required for all incoming freshmen. The curriculum for the course comes with the purchase of the SMART lab and includes 11 major topics, including music and video editing, astronomy, robotics, circuitry, 3D printing and more.

STEAM 1 covers an overview of six or seven of the topics, and which topics are covered differs with the preferences of each individual student. Students are free to choose their own pathway and work their way through the units at their own pace. Students just scratch the surface in each of the topics.

The STEAM 2 course has students finish the remainder of the units that they did not cover in STEAM 1 and then go back in further depth to the units they are most interested in. In STEAM 3, which is called STEAM Project Development, students design their own projects based on their interests.

STEAM started in the Lodi School District about three, with former high school and middle school librarian Linda Brokish. She approached Potter with an idea to start a makerspace in the middle school. In other words, she wanted to provide materials and a little guidance with which students could build and create. Then Brokish and Potter talked to Diana Karls of CREW and CREW set up the class. Brokish got the middle school LMC budget to fund the purchase of the materials while Potter and Karls recruited kids and helped Brokish teach the class after school. Just three or four students joined at the start, but by the end of the four-week trial, about a dozen had joined.

STEAM was originally called STEM, but the A for Art was added almost immediately three years ago in the Lodi program. Supervisors saw the value in an artistic point of view in creating functional projects. Students who are interested in art and who have those skills can express them in a different way through technology and science, according to Potter. There has always been a creative side to music, and video also requires creativity not just in making projects look pretty, but in thinking of innovative ways to complete them.

Previously, Potter had to cart materials back and forth between the schools, but now there is enough equipment for each school. That cache now includes LEGO robots at the Elementary school, more advanced robotics at the middle and high school, several 3D printers (five at the middle school, eight at the high school and two at the elementary school), circuit boards and CNC machines.

Classes, both required and elective, are taught by Mark Schirra, technology education instructor at the middle school, and by Matthew Horan, Kristin Hubers, Joel Betsinger and Zach Rast at the high school. LEGO and more advanced robotics, circuitry, 3D printing, music and video editing are among the choices offered to students.

Potter has already seen gains from the program among the students who have worked in the labs, including increased attention span, self-confidence, critical thinking and problem-solving ability. The program gives students who may not be athletically-inclined or academically gifted an outlet for their interests and a sense of belonging. Encouraging students to pursue future careers in a STEAM-related field is not the main goal of the program, said Potter. The aim is rather to instill a set of skills in the students that will be applicable lifelong in any situation.

“If we got kids graduating from Lodi that can problem solve and work with others, then they are a step ahead and can go into any industry and be successful,” Potter said.

He has noticed in fourth graders, for example, after participating in the STEAM program, that “now when they reach a hurdle instead of asking for help they sit and think it through and figure it out.” He wants them to know that “failure is okay and not to give up when they don’t understand a task right away.” Kids talk to him about “how good it feels to work so hard to learn something and to finally figure it out. For fourth graders, 10 minutes of not knowing how to do something is a long time,” he says, but he has seen their confidence grow. “For some kids, this is their main outlet at school, as they are not into sports or academics. It is a new realm to explore. It is not necessarily about getting them into STEAM careers, although they do learn about them.”

The concept of STEAM, or science, technology, engineering, art and math, has gained ground in education over the last few years, and the Lodi School District has kept pace. This academic year, they will open a middle school STEAM lab in the footprint of the former administrative office. STEAM lab were opened last school in the elementary school lab will open next year.

STEAM labs offer both guided classroom instruction along with opportunities for students to explore their individual interests in an unstructured environment. Fully stocked STEAM labs follow the SMART lab model provided by Creative Learning Systems, a Colorado-based educational consultant.

A team of teachers and administrators began researching the idea of bringing STEAM labs to Lodi schools about three years ago. They visited labs in East Troy, Wis., and Omaha, Neb., among others. The team included technology integrator Tyler Potter, High School Principal Vince Breunig, high school math teachers Matthew Horan and Derek Pertzborn, middle school technology education teacher Mark Schirra, library media specialist Paula Tonn, and others.

The labs are paid for through a variety of sources — low-interest loans from the state, grants, budgeted funds and fundraisers. The high school lab was funded through a five-year low-interest loan from the state Department of Public Instruction. The high school purchased a package for the SMART lab that includes furniture, equipment and curriculum.

Three STEAM classes are offered at the high school. STEAM 1 is required for all incoming freshmen. The curriculum for the course comes with the purchase of the SMART lab and includes 11 major topics, including music and video editing, astronomy, robotics, circuitry, 3D printing and more.

STEAM 1 covers an overview of six or seven of the topics, and which topics are covered differs with the preferences of each individual student. Students are free to choose their own pathway and work their way through the units at their own pace. Students just scratch the surface in each of the topics.

The STEAM 2 course has students finish the remainder of the units that they did not cover in STEAM 1 and then go back in further depth to the units they are most interested in. In STEAM 3, which is called STEAM Project Development, students design their own projects based on their interests.

STEAM started in the Lodi School District about three, with former high school and middle school librarian Linda Brokish. She approached Potter with an idea to start a makerspace in the middle school. In other words, she wanted to provide materials and a little guidance with which students could build and create. Then Brokish and Potter talked to Diana Karls of CREW and CREW set up the class. Brokish got the middle school LMC budget to fund the purchase of the materials while Potter and Karls recruited kids and helped Brokish teach the class after school. Just three or four students joined at the start, but by the end of the four-week trial, about a dozen had joined.

STEAM was originally called STEM, but the A for Art was added almost immediately three years ago in the Lodi program. Supervisors saw the value in an artistic point of view in creating functional projects. Students who are interested in art and who have those skills can express them in a different way through technology and science, according to Potter. There has always been a creative side to music, and video also requires creativity not just in making projects look pretty, but in thinking of innovative ways to complete them.

Previously, Potter had to cart materials back and forth between the schools, but now there is enough equipment for each school. That cache now includes LEGO robots at the Elementary school, more advanced robotics at the middle and high school, several 3D printers (five at the middle school, eight at the high school and two at the elementary school), circuit boards and CNC machines.

Classes, both required and elective, are taught by Mark Schirra, technology education instructor at the middle school, and by Matthew Horan, Kristin Hubers, Joel Betsinger and Zach Rast at the high school. LEGO and more advanced robotics, circuitry, 3D printing, music and video editing are among the choices offered to students.

Potter has already seen gains from the program among the students who have worked in the labs, including increased attention span, self-confidence, critical thinking and problem-solving ability. The program gives students who may not be athletically-inclined or academically gifted an outlet for their interests and a sense of belonging. Encouraging students to pursue future careers in a STEAM-related field is not the main goal of the program, said Potter. The aim is rather to instill a set of skills in the students that will be applicable lifelong in any situation.

“If we got kids graduating from Lodi that can problem solve and work with others, then they are a step ahead and can go into any industry and be successful,” Potter said.

He has noticed in fourth graders, for example, after participating in the STEAM program, that “now when they reach a hurdle instead of asking for help they sit and think it through and figure it out.” He wants them to know that “failure is okay and not to give up when they don’t understand a task right away.” Kids talk to him about “how good it feels to work so hard to learn something and to finally figure it out. For fourth graders, 10 minutes of not knowing how to do something is a long time,” he says, but he has seen their confidence grow. “For some kids, this is their main outlet at school, as they are not into sports or academics. It is a new realm to explore. It is not necessarily about getting them into STEAM careers, although they do learn about them.”

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