Figuring IT Out
Amy Garrett was there on Day One, when Pike County Schools started its STEM Academy seven years ago. She knows how far the program, named for its focus on science, technology, engineering and math, has come.
“We started from nothing. We had, literally, nothing: some cardboard and some tape,” says Garrett, who was the teacher hired for the academy’s inception. “It’s amazing to me to see what they’ve been able to attain for us in seven years so that these kids are being exposed to so many different things.”
Garrett now teaches fifth and sixth graders, but she taught all participants in the academy at the beginning, which originally was for fifth through the eighth grade but has since expanded to the ninth grade.
At every level, students are required to solve problems with teamwork, collaboration and critical thinking while learning the engineering and design process, which Garrett notes will be used in everything they do through the entire program.
Fifth grade units include coding, robotics and computer games design. In sixth grade, units are taught on design and modeling, 3D printing, more robotics, aerospace flight and drones.
Goshen High School ninth grader Katelyn Davis says the STEM Academy’s lessons are valuable in or out of class.
“It really takes you out of your comfort zone and shows you the type of person you can be,” Katelyn says. “It shows us how much we can do. We’re not a private school, and we’re not a big school. I feel some people have that kind of victim mentality, that we’re not good enough. But this shows us we can do it. We’re stronger and smarter than we thought we were.”
As crucial as anything, the STEM Academy teaches children to fight through failure. Nobody gets it right the first time — or even the second.
“They are bright kids in this program, and they don’t like to fail,” Garrett says. “They think every time they are assessed on something they should make a 100 or it should work right. There are kids that struggle with that. They hit the wall a little bit.”
Eventually, most work through those frustrating challenges.
“I’ve seen kids grow by leaps and bounds in maturity,” Garrett says. “The cool part is that we can watch them over four and five years — from fifth grade to ninth. When we first started here I had these kids for four years. We didn’t have ninth grade at the time. I taught all of them. To see them progress over those four years is really amazing.
“They pass us so fast,” she says. “I don’t need to know all of the answers, because they’re going to figure it out. That’s the beauty of it — they’ll figure it out.”