District focuses on STEAM activities

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Students at Cartmell Elementary School created squirrel houses while some students at Carroll County Middle School built scale models of hurricane shelters. High school students conducted video conferences with local business leaders and participated in face-to-face interviews with personnel from local industries.

At Kathryn Winn Primary School, students visited seven stations throughout the day for hands-on learning.

All of the activities were designed to highlight STEAM, which stands for science, technology, engineering, the arts and mathematics. Lisa James, superintendent of Carroll County Schools, often reminds students and teachers that STEAM skills are vital in helping students prepare for college, careers and citizenship.

“Our students are preparing for jobs that may not even exist right now,” said James, “so they need to develop the 21st Century Learning Skills of communication, collaboration, critical thinking and creativity. These STEAM activities were designed to develop those skills.”

CCHS junior Jacob Wise, son of Winn Principal Gerda Wise, led an activity at Winn for small groups of second-grade students, who were challenged to design a boat out of aluminum foil that could hold as many pennies as possible.

“The winning team gets a big high five and bragging rights,” said Jacob.

This was one of several stations that students at Winn rotated through. In addition to activities in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, Gerda Wise said each grade level had activities related to the arts, which included visual arts, drama, dance and music. At one station, students combined art and mathematics to design barn quilts. In another, students acted out the way polymer atoms work, then created bouncy balls by mixing their own polymer using glue and starch.

“We went out into the community and asked for volunteers from [Kentucky Utilities], Gallatin Steel and Dow Corning, as well as a variety of artists, and everyone was very gracious,” said Gerda Wise. “The partners came in and we all planned activities together. The kids absolutely had a blast.”

CCHS also partnered with local businesses and industry.

‘We Skyped with Mr. [Greg] Goff and talked about how he uses technology at the [First National Bank] on a daily basis,” said math teacher Joe Creager  “He talked about how they use WebEx to communicate with the La Grange office ...  online banking, debit cards, [and] using your cell phone to take a picture of your check to deposit it in your account.”

CCMS also involved the community by hosting a “STEM Fair” on Thursday, Nov. 8. Small groups of students or individuals stood beside displays they had created to describe how they had responded to a problem scenario they had been given.  

For example, groups of seventh-graders had to imagine that they were stranded on an island with limited time or resources to design and build a shelter that would remain intact. They also had to build a scale model of their design, which had to withstand a simulated hurricane.

Cartmell also had students engage in “project based learning” in which small groups had to integrate research about squirrel habitats, engineering and mathematics, to design and build a squirrel house.

“Rather than just learning about habitats, students worked together to build a habitat,” said Principal Doug Oak. “Students made an actual squirrel house out of cardboard, plastic milk jugs, duct tape and a variety of other materials. They also had to present their project to their class and explain the reasons for their design. There was a lot of learning that went into these projects.”


Jeff Fremin is director of public relations for Carroll County Public Schools.