RMS STEM Lab celebrates changes, experiments
By Mathew McKay
RAWLINS — Move over Rawlins Elementary, Rawlins Middle School has added its own STEM — Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics — lab to go along with yours.
The STEM Lab at the middle school offers 12 stations this year for students, each covering a different 21st century skill, Principal Kevin O’Dea said.
The Lab will cover computer programs from Photoshop and Microsoft Office to more technical programs students will deal with. It also houses 3D printers, multimedia equipment, animations, bridge building, ED3 robots and alternative energy activities.
Tammy Partlow, the lab facilitator, said the biggest difference the lab brings from that at the elementary school is individual time and space. She said students would work in pairs throughout the classroom on different topics, instead of complete classes focusing on the same ideas at the elementary school.
O’Dea said students have a choice to complete a learning path of their choice. From there, they must show proficiency in the program chosen and then move to the next program on the path to cover as many standards as possible.
“It is not like picking from a take out menu,” O’Dea said. “If I start with this modular, I move onto a certain modular next in order to hit each of the standards.”
Prior to teaching the class during summer school for about a three week session, Partlow spent two weeks training for the lab. She spent a week in Denver learning each of the programs and then had onsite one-on-one time with a creative learning program facilitator for a week.
Starting the school year off slowly, Partlow said the first week has been used to get a feel for what kids know already. She said students would soon be up and working on their own in a matter of days.
Partlow spent 16 years as a math teacher prior to this year and already sees how the lab is going to help students in other classes.
“If I had some of the hands-on kinds of things that are in the STEM lab, I know my students would have gotten the abstract ideas so much easier.”
Partlow said the lab is successful already because students want to be in the classroom learning and that can be the biggest challenge for educators.
And clearly, students want to learn. As the bell rang to send seventh graders to their next class, one student quipped that he didn’t want to leave.
“We celebrate the failures,” she said of the STEM lab. “In a regular classroom, I am not sure you celebrate failure so much.”