Shelby students flourish with STEM.

February 15, 2022

Shelby students flourish with STEM.

Tiger Pride is a presentation of Shelby Public Schools in partnership with Oceana County Press.

SHELBY — Shelby elementary students are on the cutting edge of technology as they explore 3D printers, animation and robotics through the STEM program.

STEM is an acronym for the fields of science, technology, engineering and math. Students at Thomas Read and New Era elementary schools use problem solving and teamwork skills to accomplish tasks.  

“I am so excited to be teaching STEM for kindergarten through fifth grade again this year, after not being able to have specials last year due to COVID,” said STEM instructor Autumn Altmaier. “We are able to meet once a week with all four sections of K-5th grade for 50 minutes each. We also have one group that rotates every quarter, from each grade, that we see twice a week. It has been great to provide hands-on, enrichment, and integrated learning opportunities for the students to help round out their educational experience. Hopefully, these experiences will help provide them with soft skills and foundational skills to last a lifetime.”

“Our STEM program looks a little different this year than it has in previous years,” said Altmaier. “After talking with my principal (Kara Vanderweele) at the end of summer, we took a look at specials and wanted to make sure, as we were returning to specials, that we were making responsible choices with COVID, potential quarantines, and so on. Since STEM covers a multitude of content, we had some flexibility to provide students with some new opportunities, and options that they would be able to use from home as well. The school purchased two new programs that would be able to be utilized with the students at school in my classroom, in their classrooms, and at home this year. 

“We started the year making sure students had a sound computer knowledge, and were able to operate effectively in Google Suite. This would ensure that they would be able to access and utilize any information shared with them, should they have to be quarantined. As an example, our fifth graders made a digital story utilizing Google Slides, where they created a story of their choosing. They needed to learn different functions in the program to meet the criteria of the project, but had a ton of fun creating, designing, and sharing a story that meant something and was interesting to them,” said the teacher. 

“We then moved to a new unit with a program the school purchased this year called Animation-ish. The computer program has three different levels that allow students to create animations from artwork they design on the computer in individual frames. When the students are ready, they can push play and see the individual frames come to life in their own personalized animation. 

“This has proven to be such a fun learning experience not only for the students, but for me as well. I have been blown away by the animations that my kindergarten through fifth grade students have come up with, and can’t wait to finish teaching my lessons so I can see what the kiddos create every day. It’s been amazing to see students that are coming out of their shells, smiling, sharing, and finding joy in expressing themselves through this program.

“This program has also proven to be great at allowing students at differing levels to create to the best of their abilities,” said Altmaier. “When I was teaching a lesson on how to change facial expressions to add to the effects of their animation, I had a student with a simple circular smiley face next to a student that was making a much more advanced character. They both were meeting the goals set forth for the day, and were complimenting each other on their successes, and helping each other through any tricky situations. It really has been heartwarming to see how positively the children are responding to the opportunity.  

“As we are wrapping up the animation unit, I am looking forward to another new unit with a second new program the school purchased this year to try out. It is called FabMaker, and allows the students to create 2D and 3D designs in the program that can be printed on a Silhouette machine, like a Cricut, and a regular printer as well. I cannot wait to see what the children are able to create with this unit, too. The children are also looking forward to a coding and robotics unit at the end of the year. 

“We have been excited to get our 3D printing program up and running again this year, too. Every marking period — when I have a third through fifth grade class twice a week — we learn about 3D printers and TinkerCad. The students create their own 3D items to print. We currently have 3D printers in a couple of the fourth and fifth grade classrooms, and they love it. I check in on them daily to make sure all is going well, and we discuss and problem solve any issues that may arise. This group has really taken to it quite easily, and are getting pretty proficient at using the printers and knowing what to do throughout the printing process. 

“Also, for my kinders through second graders, when I have them twice a week, we have a Fun Friday. We have makerspace time where we use items like Legos, Strawbees, Keva Planks, etc. to build and create. I also usually start with a challenge for the kiddos to try to figure out, and then in the remaining time they can have free building time. For example, last week the children were challenged to build a snowman from their legos. We talked about how legos are not the typical snowman shape, and that we don’t have enough white legos for everyone to make them a typical snowman color. So, we then brainstormed different ways we could solve problems like those, and then the children had a designated time to try to complete their snowman. We take time to showcase their work, discuss what worked and what we would change next time.  

“At the end of the day, I know the last few years have been tricky for everyone. However, I am so proud of our students for remaining resilient, open to learning new things; working together; and continuing to strive for excellence. They never cease to amaze me, and I can’t wait to see what they continue to accomplish in the years ahead.”

Having STEM for our students is an amazing opportunity,” said Principal Vanderweele. “They love it. The hands-on activities offer a different perspective and they reach all students.”

“I like STEM because there is a bunch of programming, TinkerCad, and I like printing a bunch of stuff. I like making stuff and art,” said student Brennen Stark.

“It is fun, and you learn new things everyday,” said Kaylin Burmeister.

“I like that you can create stuff, and use your imagination,” said JoJo Regeczi.

“STEM is fun, and you learn how to do fun things. I love it because of Mrs. Altmaier,” said Skylar Wheeler.

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