TES Pushes for STEM Connection
When Turlington Elementary (TES) Instructional Technologist Melissa Summerford joined the TES family, she had an idea on how to further interest students into Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM). Along with Principal Kristen Eckerman, Summerford converted the computer lab into a new STEM Lab. Now students are not limited to learning through one mode of technology, they get a more hands-on experience using various tools.
All students from kindergarten to fifth-grade visit the lab once every six days. They are led by facilitator Kelsey Lance, under the guidance of Summerford. During class time, students are broken up into six groups that rotate through stations at each visit. Before breaking into stations, classes discuss careers in STEM and skills required for certain jobs. At the stations, students work to learn not only to learn STEM skills, but also develop creativity, team building, and self-management.
“We have all this equipment that we can use,” Summerford said. “Why not take advantage and use it to its fullest potential.”
While Summerford follows the STEMScopes curriculum, she receives input from the entire district. At TES, Summerford works alongside Instructional Facilitator Roslia Barquero and the Instructional Team to create lesson plans. They identify what students are learning in core classes and what Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) they score low on. This allows them to create lessons that help fill in the educational gaps students are missing.
“We get to do a lot of things classroom teachers do not have the time to do,” Summerford said. “We have that flexibility, so we use it to help reinforce what students are learning in the classroom.”
On the district level, Summerford receives feedback from all campus technologists, as well as Chief Information Officer Rosa Ojeda. They help provide the knowledge of what types of technology will work best with a lesson and work together to find solutions to any questions or concerns.
“You need that connection between Technology and Instruction,” Summerford said. “Otherwise, how are you to know what is working in the classroom and what doesn’t?”
One of the main factors that drew Lance to helping lead the STEM Lab was the inclusion of Special Education (SPED) students. Instead of working alone, SPED students are encouraged to fully participate in class activities with friends. If they face an obstacle with an activity, most students creatively find solutions on their own or with a partner. They are encouraged to fully think and be their own person.
“SPED students are fully a part of this class,” Lance said. “They are doing the same work alongside their classmates and it’s amazing to see their confidence grow.”
Summerford and Lance are constantly working to improve and develop the STEM Lab for all students.
“I could not have done this without the help of everyone,” Summerford said. “I have been fully supported by teachers, Eckerman, and Ojeda. I’m so thankful for the chance they have given me.”