About a dozen teachers and administrators are in the midst of a four-day training session to learn how they will incorporate the new STEM/CMA lab into the District 153 curriculum.
Through a host of computer activities and hands-on creative learning, students will learn about science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) topics, and creative media arts (CMA).
Now that the lab is in place, District 153 staff will get a few weeks to do hands-on training so that the lab is ready when students return for the 2016-17 school year on Aug. 24.
The lab’s full-time staff will be Cheri Pesina, CMA and broadcasting facilitator; Katie Nigro, STEM lab facilitator; and Jacob Condon, SMART lab assistant.
The district invested $348,000 with Creative Learning Systems for the equipment and curriculum package that will offer students nearly 400 topics called options of engagement: everything from the a discovery of the solar system to how to create a television program.
“Students are doing their own self-teaching. You are just facilitating those activities,” Gary King of Creative Learning told the teachers.
The former media center at the now shuttered Millennium School has been transformed into the lab. The space that once housed reading materials and library furniture today is a room with eight clusters, or islands. Each has three computer work stations. Each station is moveable making different configurations possible should teachers want students to work in larger or smaller groups.
The idea behind the STEM/CMA lab is to give sixth, seventh and eighth graders the chance to learn topics of their choosing and grasp the information at their own pace. They will be on six-week rotations so that all students will cover science, technology, engineering, math and art.
Mike Mitchell of Creative Learning Systems said each of the nearly 400 choices has three levels, so that students can find the level they feel comfortable at.
Teachers can use the lab with specific approaches in mind that fit a curriculum topic, or “it will be an individualized (student) choice to select what they want to do,” he explained.
The lab also has a 3-D printer.
Superintendent Dale Mitchell said the lab won’t supplant but rather enhance what goes on in the classroom. It also is geared toward giving students information on career choices.