Sunday July 14, 2019

Initiative aims to place STEM Center in every OKC elementary school

Educators have been measuring the outcomes from STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) Centers for some time and have seen dramatic results in their ability to develop critical thinking skills as well as inspire an interest in further STEM education. Providing consistent and early exposure is a key factor to both, which is why Oklahoma City Public Schools (OKCPS) has prioritized placing a STEM Center in each of its 33 elementary schools.

A partnership with the Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation has given the district and The Foundation for Oklahoma City Public Schools an opportunity to provide a districtwide approach to immediately elevating the level of STEM programming for students.

STEM Centers in school settings may be a concept unfamiliar to many outside certain industries or in the education world, but their value to our future workforce is tremendous. A STEM Center is a place where students create, innovate, problem solve and collaborate. They include items as simple as Legos and as sophisticated as robotics, computers and 3-D printers.

STEM Centers create hands-on learning environments, allowing students to work independently and in teams to build things and solve problems creatively. They are complete with guided curriculum that is targeted to specific and interdisciplinary areas including science, technology, engineering, mathematics, but also arts and language arts.

Our state’s future workforce needs are tied heavily to STEM. From aerospace to energy, information technology, architecture and construction, there are many key industries that rely on employees having a strong background in STEM. The strategic approach to providing opportunities for kids to develop these interests will pay huge dividends to themselves and employers in the future.

There are even greater benefits, according to most educators. STEM Centers, and other hands-on learning environments, are the best way to teach kids the one thing that will benefit them tremendously no matter what they choose as a profession — a lifelong love of learning. In addition, developing emotional intelligence that comes with consistent opportunities to develop team building and collaboration skills will help students succeed in life. These skills are critical to success in any line of work and in relationships of any kind.

The greatest gift we can give our children is a passion for learning, a drive for knowledge and the skills to solve problems and relate well with others. The district is providing this opportunity for all students in our district, and everyone in the community will benefit.

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