Recent donation from the Schrenk Foundation allows students to take STEM to the next level!
Often things get better with time, and the science program at St. Veronica Catholic School, an Independence Mission School, is no exception! Thanks to generous donations throughout the years, including a recent grant from the Schrenk Foundation, what started out as a basic science class, has grown into full-blown STEM program – complete with a STEM lab that boasts lab tables, iPads and all the tools needed for students to perform hands-on experiments and explore all the STEM concepts first-hand.
When Chelsea Reeve, the Science Teacher for grades 5-8, first arrived at St. Veronica about four years ago, things looked very different than they do today. One of the first upgrades made was the purchase of a new book series for the students, which began to introduce them to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) concepts. The new curriculum takes students first through an overview where they get a taste of everything (grade 5), next to life science (grade 6), then onto earth science (grade 7) and finally the curriculum culminates with physical science (grade 8).
In her second year, the science program was able to build on the new curriculum with the help of a generous donation by a doctor and friend of St. Veronica which allowed for the addition of lab tables. Last year, microscopes were added and Mrs. Reeves’ alma mater, Rosemont College, donated all the basic tools needed for hands-on experimentation – test tubes, beakers, test tube racks (and even a DNA incubator).
This year, with the grant money received from the Schrenk Foundation, the program was able to get 20 iPads which will allow the students to use the online portion of their books. The online text book enables them to experience virtual fieldtrips to explore places like the Amazon, and even engage in virtual labs. The addition of the iPads, along with a science kit that supplements the program, has taken the STEM program to the next-level, where students can get more hands-on.
Already, they have been able to find out how erosion works by putting dirt and water in a bin. “The students are now constructing their own experiences and they are telling me the result, as opposed to me reading about it to them and telling them what the result should be,” says Reeve. The fifth graders have even learned how to create their own slides, and have created slides that allow them to see their own cheek cells under the microscope!
Another big improvement that the grant afforded, was the purchase of a mobile sink cart, which saves the students from having to have to run up to the 3rd floor teacher bathroom every time they need water to run an experiment.
“It’s really an exciting time to be a middle school student at St. Veronica,” says Reeve, who herself is excited to see how far the science program has come from where they started. The students from her very first fifth grade class are now eighth graders and she is amazed by how their science vocab has grown over the past few years, as evidenced when she hears them in the hall telling the Principal that her “epidermis” is showing!
The 2019-2020 school year promises to be filled with STEM exploration and learning and Reeve is eager to see how well the students transition to using the iPads and from being able to see real life situations instead of just reading about them. Reeve says, “The students keep asking to do dissection, so I plan to start with owl pellets with the sixth graders, which should be very interesting and a lot of fun!” Is there any better way to kick off a new school year? For a middle school student, probably not!