“Because knowledge is available on every internet-connected device, what you know matters far less than what you can do with what you know. The capacity to innovate--the ability to solve problems creatively or bring new possibilities to life--and skills like critical thinking, communication, and collaboration are far more important than academic knowledge.”
Creating “college and career-ready” students who are independent learners, skilled collaborators, and innovative thinkers is increasingly important in today’s society. Moreover, the students of today are of the digital generation. They seamlessly incorporate technology into practically every aspect of their lives and feel at ease doing so. For this reason, integrating technology and inquiry-based learning into schools is critical in order to reach our 21st century learners. This is one of the most significant ways we can make learning relevant and meaningful to our students. Nevertheless, many schools are struggling to do so, not because of reluctance or an unwillingness, but because of financial limitations that are put on the districts. This is precisely the case for Osnaburg Local School District.
Osnaburg Local is a small rural district located in East Canton, Ohio. There are only about 6,000 residents in the community, and the average household income is near $46,000. Additionally, the median home sale price is $79,000. There are approximately 870 students all housed in one preschool through 12th grade building, and 37% of the student population is identified as being on free and reduced lunch status. Nevertheless, East Canton educators have gone above and beyond to ignite a STEM program within the district. Last year, very generous donations from the community made it possible to introduce the first STEM course entitled Technology Engineering and Design (TED).
Now, both educators and students alike are hoping to grow the East Canton STEM Academy by incorporating two new courses next year. The first course, STEM Land Use, will examine STEM concepts in oil and gas exploration, as well as in agriculture. Thanks to some resourceful teachers and cooperative community members, East Canton has everything it needs to make this first course happen. The second course, STEM Robotics, is where we need your help. The goal of the course is to further develop student understanding of the STEM engineering design model while also teaching students invaluable computer language and programming skills. Students will also develop an understanding of mechanics and robotics and learn to sharpen their problem-solving skills as they prepare to compete in the VEX Robotics Competition.
What exactly is Vex? As defined by Vex itself, “The VEX Robotics Design System offers students an exciting platform for learning about areas rich with career opportunities spanning science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). These are just a few of the many fields students can explore by creating with VEX Robotics technology. Beyond science and engineering principles, a VEX Robotics project encourages teamwork, leadership and problem solving among groups. It also allows educators to easily customize projects to meet the level of students’ abilities. The affordable VEX platform is expanding rapidly and is now found in middle schools, high schools and university labs around the globe. Robotics hobbyists also appreciate the advanced capabilities of the VEX System.”
The funding we are seeking will allow us to purchase the necessary robotics kits and software to offer this amazing opportunity for our students. The equipment is completely reusable, which will allow us to continue offering this course to students year after year with very minimal maintenance costs. In addition, the course curriculum has already been created by Carnegie Mellon University and revolves around the following well-defined and well-articulated course principles:
Mathematics needs to be brought to the foreground for the student. The focus of the math instruction must be centered on addressing specific mathematics concepts (not general) and the mathematics in the lesson must be made explicit not implicit.
Robotics is the perfect organizer to teach Design Engineering. Competitions provide students with fresh/difficult problems to solve each year.
Computer Science is a new basic skill set that all kids need to understand. Robotics provides the perfect opportunity to teach kids how to program.
For students’ STEM understanding to move beyond parroting the teacher’s words, ideas, and solutions, and to develop deep understanding, students need the opportunity to struggle with the problem, be able to defend their decisions, and explain their answer in their own words.
East Canton has the educators, administrators, community members, learning environment, curriculum, and even the students to make this STEM Robotics course successful. We are all willing to go above and beyond to implement this course and give East Canton students an invaluable learning experience that will help prepare them for future careers in science, mathematics, and technology. All we need is your help--your support--in making this dream a reality. By making a small monetary contribution to our kids, you are making a huge investment in their futures. Socrates once said, “Education is the kindling of a flame, not the filling of a vessel.” We hope to do exactly that--ignite a flame within our students that will burn for a lifetime.
East Canton STEM Homepage:
VEX Robotics Websites:
- Charles Gili
- Linda Ashby
- Paul Toalston
- Kathy Hill
- Larry & Debbie Bugh
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