Cross-institutional partnership fosters STEM education

Enblem Academy student Josh Smith shows Gilbert Maldonado of Donalson Filtration Solutions how students are using 3D printers during the Student STEM Showcase at Enblem Academy in Saugus on Tuesday, March 7, 2017. Katharine Lotze/The Signal

At Emblem Academy and West Creek Academy, students have the unique opportunity to study and pursue four STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) pathways from kindergarten to college.

Named the STEM Pipeline, the collaboration integrates 21st century skills in computer networking, engineering, computer science, manufacturing and other advanced technologies for students as they increase in grade level.

Through trainings and lessons supported by the non-profit Project Lead the Way, students are given a series of courses that continue to build upon each other as students move from West Creek and Emblem in the Saugus Union School District to Saugus High School and Valencia High School the William S. Hart Union High School District, and then to College of the Canyons (COC) and California State University, Northridge (CSUN).

“Before we knew it, we had a common element between our K-12 schools and beyond because those colleges are looking at Project Lead the Way,” said Jon Baker, principal of Emblem Academy.  “This is preparing our students for 21st century skills and a global economy.”

Valencia High School students talk to visitors about what they learn in computer assisted design (CAD) classes during the Student STEM Showcase at Enblem Academy in Saugus on Tuesday, March 7, 2017. Katharine Lotze/The Signal

Students from the Saugus District, Hart District, COC and CSUN exhibited this collaborative spirit and their hands-on STEM experiences to teachers, administrators, local employers and industry partners at the first-ever Santa Clarita Valley Student STEM Showcase (S³) Tuesday.

“This is just an awesome day to be able to see elementary, junior high, high school, community college and college students all under one roof doing STEM -related activities in four different pathways,” said Baker, who organized the event.

From coding robots and designing electricity conductors to developing computer programs and utilizing 3-D model printing, students from all grade levels shared their unique experiments and designs with attendees throughout the showcase.

Arroyo Seco Junior High School eighth grade student Jacob Hunter, 13, said his class learned how to map out a game using drag and drop coding on Scratch, an online programming site.

“We had multiple projects using Scratch projects,” he said.

Hunter then used the program to develop his own piano using a circuit board, paper clips, alligator clips, playdough and tin foil.

“Makey Makey is a circuit board where you can connect to your computer and remap the keys… so I created a piano program,” Hunter said.  “You can connect it to anything that has conductivity.”

Fourth grade students at West Creek Academy Sophia DeGesare, 9, and Madelyn Villor, 10, used the electrical engineering book “A Reminder for Emily” to learn how to conduct electricity in a closed loop and design an alarm circuit.

“We’ve been working on it in class,” said DeGesare, showing her circuit which included a ruler, a “water bucket,” wires and a battery.  “We’ll create electricity with the battery and the wires to hit the metal and creative electricity.”

Christopher Leal, a computer science student at COC, grew up going to school in the Saugus District and is now president of COC’s Computer Science Club.  The STEM-focused lessons and programs were not something that was offered in his classes when he was in grade school.

“It would have exposed me to it a little earlier,” he said.  “It would have made the transition from high school to college a little easier.”

Lori Risse of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) smiles as she tests out an electronic piano project by Arroyo Seco Junior High student Jacob Hunter, right, during the Student STEAM Showcase at Enblem Academy in Saugus on Tuesday, March 7, 2017. Katharine Lotze/The Signal

Baker said the showcase also inspired young students to continue pursuing STEM fields throughout their educational careers and to look to older students as role models.

“Our elementary kids see college kids at the same table and say ‘Wow, I could be there.  I want to stay with STEM and stay in these disciplines,’” he said.  “And we know there are jobs out there for them if they stick with it.”

The Santa Clarita Valley Student STEM Showcase also included a keynote from Maria Blue, a first grade teacher at Emblem and a member of the California Science Framework and Evaluation Criteria Committee (CFCC).

Blue discussed the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), their impact in preparing students for STEM coursework and careers and their implementation in the STEM Pipeline program.

“We have questions every day and STEM has the answer,” Blue said.  “These students would be prepared to go not only into science related fields but would also be educated citizens and consumers.”

Blue and Baker also discussed Emblem Academy’s STEMinars which allow students to explore STEM fields on their own.  These STEMinars include lessons about geology, the science of sound, coding robots and tinker CAD.

“These happen during the school day every Tuesday and Thursday… it’s not just for certain groups of students but for all students,” Blue said.  “It’s what inspires our teachers, what works with the Next Generation Science Standards and what inspires our students.”

As the STEM pipeline continues to grow and develop, Baker hopes students continue to find their passions and teachers continue to promote education through Emblem’s own ESTEEM (Ethics, Science, Technology, Engineering, Entrepreneurship and Mathematics) motto.

“That is our charge and that is what we want to do to try to educate our students so we can prepare them for 21st century skills,” he said,

[email protected]
On Twitter as @_ChristinaCox_

Related To This Story

Latest NEWS