Second graders at The Learning Center Charter School engineer, build, test, design and troubleshoot every day. Why? Because STEM education extends to every student at the school no matter the age.
Second grade teacher, Stephanie Hopper, engages her 7 and 8 year old students with STEM projects regularly. This fall she will have her students build pumpkin wagons, design scarecrows with specific construction standards that the students must meet, and engineer “turkey hideouts” to avoid the Thanksgiving table. The activities are seasonal but also fit squarely into the school’s STEM approach to education.
STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and math. Our school takes it a step further by including entrepreneurship, arts and agriculture – E-STEAM.
Mary Jo Dyre, Executive Director, says, “Cultivating an E-STEAM culture is the guiding philosophy for our school and within that we offer an amazing array of learning opportunities for our students – each and every student from kindergarten through eighth grade.”
The STEM activities that Hopper integrates into her everyday lessons are a prime example of that approach. “My students plan, design, engineer, test, and reconstruct each and every day. It’s just what we do.” Hopper adds that no student is too young to be introduced and challenged by this approach. “I’m always encouraging them to expand and improve upon a design. I ask how they can make it better, wider, taller, or hold more weight. The students always rise to the challenge too,” said Hopper.
Second grade teacher at The Learning Center Charter School, Stephanie Hopper, wrapped up a cross curricular unit on insects with her class earlier this month. Found online, Eddie the Entomologist sent the class friendly letters each day that included clues. Using the clues, the students then guessed what creature was the bug of the day.
Hopper was able to bridge the study of insects across all subjects in her class. In science, students learned about insect life cycles. Numerous books and interactive online reading texts were used by students for research and reading comprehension. Plus, the daily letters from Eddie allowed the class to review and reinforce what they had previously learned about the composition of friendly letters.
In math, students used measurement standards to compare different types of insects as well as jumping distances. Additionally, students put their STEM skills to use when tasked with designing and building their own insects.
Plus, these industrious second grade students wrote acrostic poems using descriptive words to describe insects, wrote a sequence paper on the life cycle of an insect, made terrariums with appropriate habitats for insects to live and did a drawing activity where they were guided, step-by-step to draw, label and color a realistic bumble bee and butterfly.
At the end of the all encompassing insect unit, students earned an “Entomologist Expert” badge from Eddie.
Hopper said, “These students could hardly wait each day to read the letter from Eddie and use the clues to figure out the bug of the day. Using their excitement about bugs across all of our studies engaged them thoroughly in each subject.”
Each year, students at our school participate in the St. Jude’s Math-a-thon to sharpen their math skills and raise money for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. This year students raised $1565.00! Over $1000 of this amount was raised by the 2nd grade class alone. The second best class total was 5th grade with $334.
A special thank to you Entegra Bank in Murphy for their $250 donation towards this total.
Did you know that there is a student run coffee cart open on Friday mornings? This coffee cart business is part of a combined functional math and social studies focus.
The business kicked off in late 2017. On Friday mornings, students use a Keurig to brew coffee and hot chocolate from 7:30 – 8:30 am in the Dining Commons. Each cup is $1.00. The proceeds are used to sustain the business and hopefully fund a field trip at the end of the school year.
This business is giving students the opportunity to practice life skills such as social exchanges, taking orders, sequencing, taking money and making change.
Additionally, these young entrepreneurs are learning about collaboration across grades because there are two upper grades students who offer so much support with ensuring the coffee business goes smoothly!
This coffee business is teaching so much to these young students and is just another example of our school’s commitment to an E-STEAM culture.
Each year our school participates in the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital’s Math-a-Thon. It is a great way for our student to improve math skills and learn the importance of helping others.
Students at The Learning Center Charter School are experiencing a new approach to math this school year, termed Guided Math, due in large part to second grade teacher, Stephanie Hopper. In spring of 2016, she began researching math curriculum. The more she researched, the more she realized that no magical math curriculum exists. She saw that it’s not the curriculum but the approach to math that better meets the needs of the school’s diverse population of students.
Guided Math is now what kindergarten through fifth grade students at the charter school do each day. Math class begins with a math warm up and is soon followed by a whole group mini lesson which focuses on a specific math standard. After that, students work in smaller groups following a rotation schedule according to STACK. STACK stands for 1) Small group with the teacher, 2) Technology, 3) Apply what they have learned; 4) Create using critical thinking skills through math journaling, and 5) Kinesthetic, or in other words, hands-on games and activities. These rotations allow the students to experience direct instruction as well as student-centered activities and hands-on learning. The teacher is able to work with small groups of students to further enhance the direct instruction and work closely with those who are struggling and those who are ready to be further challenged. After the daily rotation is complete, the class comes back together as a whole and reflects on the lessons of the day.
Ms. Hopper says that student response to Guided Math has been great and is a perfect addition to the school’s Four-Blocks English Language Arts Program. Fourth grade teacher, Chris Conroy says, “My experience with Guided Math so far is that students are much more engaged in their work. They enjoy helping their fellow group members and love the rotations. The Guided Math approach gives students the opportunity to learn the math standards in many different ways and allows the teacher to monitor each individual child and provide differentiated instruction and lessons. It’s a win-win learning experience!”