By Tim Ashley
CLAYPOOL – Whether it’s about domestic birds, gardening, robotics or how humans can have a positive or negative impact on the environment, Claypay Elementary students gain real-world learning experience through STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) . Claypool Elementary is one of four state-approved STEM schools in Warsaw Public Schools in addition to Madison, Jefferson and Washington Primary Schools.
Project-based learning is a key part of learning in today’s classrooms. According to Brock Rhodes, STEM coach at Claypool Elementary, the surveys showed a desire to learn STEM. “We see a need in the community for STEM skills,” he said, or especially skills needed for the future.
“In partnership with our community companies, we can learn what skills our students need to enter the workforce and succeed in the 21st century,” wrote Melissa Reese, director in a letter of support from Claypole for STEM. approved. “In order to meet the needs of local companies as well as companies around the world, Claypool Elementary students gain the necessary knowledge and skills to enable them to excel in a number of fields.”
Rhodes said “we’re trying to have projects that will ultimately have real results” and have a mass audience. Whenever possible, STEM should be included in classroom learning.
Kindergarten students learned how to “build a house for a bad big wolf” based on a fairy tale about three little pigs. Kindergarten students also learn robotics and coding, and plant beans in the garden.
First graders learned about biomes, or wildlife habitats. Second graders learned about native Indiana birds and took out birds to eat some of those birds.
Other classes learned about the positive and negative impacts of humans on the environment by visiting forests on school property, how to learn about the Midwest through the use of color coding and robots, and building rockets and land rovers as part of space studies. Each classroom also has an aerospace garden where things can be grown without soil and only water and nutrients or hydroponics.
“We want them to see things on the ground,” Rhodes said. In the wooded area there is an outdoor classroom located near the river.
Students can actually go to the stream and check the water quality with data recorded in the Hoosier Riverwatch database. They are taught to connect land and water with natural resources.
Kostyusko County Soil and Water Conservation District has shown an increased interest and awareness of students about water quality and related resources. Students should walk a short distance from the school building to see nature up close and personal.
Each of Warsaw’s four STEM schools focuses on specific “pillars” of learning. For Claypool, these are agricultural technologies and lakes and rivers. The school is located in a rural area and there is an abundant farm nearby.
“Even if they (students) don’t farm, they can still find work in agriculture,” Rhodes said. “Someone (for example) has to program GPS on tractors.”
The world’s population is growing and in need of food, but there are fewer agricultural workers, thus creating great challenges for the future. “Agriculture is STEM’s core industry,” noted Jeremy Mullins, commercial manager of Louis Dreyfus.
Claypool Elementary received state certification during the 2019-20 academic year, but the process began around 2016. “It’s a tough process,” Rhodes said.