Learning Spaces

Valentine Elementary Aims to Make STEM More Fun with Dedicated Classroom

Valentine Elementary School has opened a new STEM lab designed to facilitate active learning and collaboration in an effort to inspire interest in science, technology, engineering and math topics.

Part of a district-wide initiative to build STEM classrooms at each elementary school the new space is in a former computer lab and home to a full-time STEM instructor, Crystal Shin.

The space features tables that can be easily moved and raised or lowered, an interactive whiteboard, two 70-inch televisions, a projector and a full-wall magnetic dry erase board. The classroom's chairs come in three varieties that can be used in multiple positions.

"They were chosen last year by our student council," said Colleen Shields, principal at Valentine, in a local news report about the STEM class. "They offer better ergonomic support and allow for more movement by the student. Our goal was to make it a more flexible learning space. Research on kids says that like to move around and they like to stand up. The tables have wheels and they can be moved together for group learning. We did a lot of research on STEM learning spaces."

Students have access to the classroom, paid for by the PTA with labor provided by the district, for two hours a week over six-week rotations.

"This is really a structured playground," said Shin in a newspaper report. "This is the new type of California science. The goal is to embed the STEM components and have the students interact while learning science content. It's using what you learn instead of memorizing facts and regurgitating them back onto a test. The students are building and putting what they learn into practice. I feel that if I have to tell someone who is not in education what is happening, it's that the students are learning, but the focus is now on the doing and the explaining. I feel that in elementary school,  that is what kids need to do. At this age, a child's attention span is maybe 10 minutes at best. Reading for an hour is not going to help. It's important to show them that science is fun."

About the Author

Joshua Bolkan is contributing editor for Campus Technology, THE Journal and STEAM Universe. He can be reached at jbolkan@gmail.com.

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