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Sycamore's West Elementary School works to add STEM, technology to school

SYCAMORE – West Elementary School is working on adding more STEM learning opportunities and hands on experiences this year, Principal Ryan Schrader told the Sycamore School District 427 Board of Education..

That goal is one of several his school is pursuing this year. Implementing the Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) Makerspace program will allow students to learn to “innovate and create,” said district superintendent Kathy Countryman.

“In some of our buildings you’ll see some Lego things or building things,” she said. “I know at Southeast Elementary School they have tiny little circuits where kids wire circuits. It’s more hands-on activities.”

Schrader presented the goals to the school board at their regular meeting Tuesday night. Each school in the district hosts the school board for one meeting a year and gets to highlight their work to the board.

The school now has smart boards in every classroom, teachers use Google Classroom, and the third through fifth graders have Chromebooks they use in class.

However the technology is just a tool, Countryman said.

“We don’t want our kids to just sit and have a Chromebook in front of them,” she said. “We know the thing that has the most effect on kids’ learning is their teacher.”

Other goals

The school is also working to create and maintain a school-wide positive behavioral interventions and supports plan to encourage good behavior. A few of the ways the school is working to meet the goal, according to the slide show Schrader presented, includes: having classroom incentives, point systems to reinforce classroom behavior and having assemblies.

The school is also promoting school safety and students’ social and emotional well-being.

Countryman said the school safety goals – having school-wide drills and locking doors – share the same goal as classroom expectations and rules, because when the school district staff thinks about student safety, it doesn’t just think about locking doors and having school-wide drills.

“When we talk about a safe learning environment, we also are talking about kids feeling safer with taking risks in their learning,” she said. “That we’re all treating each other kindly. We look at it more as an environment for safe learning.”

Finally, the school is working to communicate well and often with staff and with parents. To accomplish this the school will have monthly staff meetings, daily emails on what is happening, weekly agendas to the staff and sending emails to parents every Monday to let them know about upcoming events and key dates.

Source: The Daily Chronicle

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