Small School District Invests Big in STEM Innovation Labs
- By Dian Schaffhauser
A small South Carolina school district is making a large investment in STEM education. The three-school Florence School District Four opened a STEM "innovation lab" in its elementary school for the 2018-2019 school year and introduced drone pilot certification lessons to high schoolers. Now it plans to open a second STEM lab in its middle school in time for the start of classes next fall.
The space at Brockington Elementary allows students to learn robotics programming, print 3D objects, perform video game design and use drones. Classes rotate through the space, which is currently shared with the middle school. The classroom was set up with the help of a $20,000 donation from Honda, which runs a manufacturing facility in the community.
Elementary school students at Florence School District Four won't have to share their STEM innovation lab (shown here during the opening) when the local middle school gets its own lab in time for the start of school in the fall.
The project was done through a partnership with South Carolina-based STEM U, which works with schools to implement or enhance science, technology, engineering and math programs through professional learning and consulting.
In local reporting, Executive District Administrator Tonya Addison said the launch of the STEM initiatives has "enhanced our morale as a district." As a small school system, she noted, "we really don't have the funding to hire a teacher, but we can offer partnerships that can then bring a multitude of offerings that our students can take part in. It really lets them know that they are on the same playing field as anybody else."
During the next school year, the district also intends to launch robotics teams in its three schools, to allow students to compete in local and regional robotics contests.
Dian Schaffhauser is a senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal and Campus Technology. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @schaffhauser.