Students trying out a daily STEM Challenge

    This fall the district will launch its K-5 STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) program at all four district elementary schools. Over the course of the summer, the spaces that once housed the elementary computer labs have been renovated to create elementary STEM classrooms. The renovation includes flexible and collaborative seating options, open floor space for robotics lessons, Lego walls and dry erase surfaces and upgraded classroom technology. Students in grades K-5 will have STEM once every 6 days which is approximately thirty STEM classes per school year.

    The transition from an elementary computer class to a STEM class is an initiative the District has been planning since 2018 as part of the District’s Long Range Technology Plan. The curriculum is being developed based on the ISTE (International Society for Technology and Education) standards and the NYSED K-12 Computer Science and Digital Fluency Standards.

    The K-5 STEM program will allow students to have learning experiences rooted in the “4 C’s” of 21st Century Learning - creativity, collaboration, critical thinking and communication. Students will be participating in a variety of STEM challenges and projects.  One of the projects students will be completing this year is a Sail Car project and an Air Racer Electric Fan Car. They will use the engineering design process to design and build their cars, and will evaluate measurement and how the design variables can impact speed and distance traveled. In addition to the STEM challenges, students will be utilizing Osmo coding activities, Lego BricQ lessons, Sphero Indi robots, Dash and Dot robots and Glowforge laser cutters. The K-5 STEM teachers have been working throughout the spring and summer to develop their curriculum.

    The K-5 STEM program will have both immediate and long-term benefits for students.The immediate benefit of the program for K-5 students will be the increased hands-on learning and the ability to collaborate and problem solve with peers. “The thought of students working together to create their own solutions to problems is an exciting thought as a teacher and parent in the district,” said Emerson Smith, STEM teacher and Science Instructional Leader at South Davis. 

    Students will still receive computer instruction, but will have less screen time and more hands on learning. Students will be using the engineering design process to plan and execute their STEM challenges, which includes learning in a cycle of “test and improve.” When planning this program, the District Technology Committee consulted with middle school technology teachers on what the most critical skills for a successful STEM program are. The answer was simple and surprising. “It has been clear the last few years that kids need to be able to fail. They need to know it’s okay to test and improve. Test and improve. We have a generation of kids who are afraid to get things wrong, and that is where innovation is born.” said Jim Roland, who teaches drone technology, robotics and architectural engineering and is the Instructional Leader for Technology at Orchard Park Middle School.

    The long term goal of the program is to build a comprehensive K-12 STEM program and ensure that all Orchard Park students have exposure to STEM lessons and the potential for future STEM careers. Sarah Hornung, Director of Technology states, “We are excited that this program will have an impact on all areas of our school and community. We have started connecting with local businesses in the region who have a vested interest in investing in the next generation of innovators. We know the students in our schools today will someday have jobs that don’t even exist yet. We want to ensure the skills they learn in our classrooms are preparing them for the world they are entering and the skills that the world needs.”

    The District community is looking forward to being able to provide this program for elementary students and looks forward to seeing both the long and short term benefits of the program positively impact Orchard Park students.

    Male student building a sail car at a table Female student building a sail car