Elementary school showcases innovative education programs with STEM night open house

Friday STEM Class first graders Kyler Johnson and Jacob Wiser work to build a three-dimensional, closed figure using polygonal shapes. “It’s a matter of try, fail and rede-sign,” said Todd Reinholtz, Math Interven-tionist and STEM teacher. “It’s high order thinking, but they don’t know it. To them it’s just play.” -Staff photos by John Coffelt

  Staff Writer John Coffelt Hickerson Elementary School, one of Coffee County Schools’ smaller campuses, aims to become one of the region’s few Science, Technology Engineering and Mathematics schools. To showcase just a portion of the innovation that has been incorporated into education, the school will hold a STEM Night from 4:30-7:30 p.m., Friday, March 2 at the school located on the Old Tullahoma Highway. “This school may be small but we offer a lot. (This level of) STEM is one of the things that no other elementary school offers, in Manchester City or Tullahoma City. This STEM night is an opportunity for folks outside our community, to come see what’s here, and talk to our teachers,” said Principal Jimmy Anderson. “We have several businesses that will attend and show us what their business is like and how STEM is incorporated in their jobs,” he said.

Forth grader Leah Laye uses a Chromebook during reading class using Google Classroom. Grades three through five use Chromebooks, and a new cart will offer one device per student coverage of Chromebooks.

Included in the lineup will be Manchester Police Department with a forensics presentation, Hands-on Science Center with a astronomy display, Nissan with their ever popular mousetrap-powered cars, UTSI will help participants make and launch straw rockets and the UT Extension will present on soil types. “They all will be demonstrating with the kids. And then we’ll have some exhibits set up. Farm Bureau will have an agricultural simulator that simulates driving a combine. Someone will be presenting on worms and soil and our archery club will be presenting,” Anderson said. Coffee County Manchester Public Library will be signing people up for library cards. Motlow State Community College will be offering adult education information for parents. “We’ve tried to make it a diverse event so people can see and hear how it all connects. We will be providing food, so families can eat supper for free.” Door prizes include several high-bounce moon balls, mini drones and a grand prize telescope. “It’s open for the whole community. I’d really like for it to be an event where folks can come and see what’s happening at the school,” Anderson said. Hickerson works toward STEM School designation The state Department of Education accredits schools that have successfully incorporated STEM into its curriculum as a STEM school. Adoring to state information, Tennessee STEM School Designation was developed to provide a ‘roadmap’ for schools to successfully implement a STEM education plan at the local level … (defining) the attributes necessary for a school to create a comprehensive STEM learning environment for its students.” Anderson explained that the school tries to have STEM education in every aspect of learning. “We also talk about how writing is a part of STEM, because all those types of people have to be able to write in a particular way. “Kids are doing different hands-on, project based learning.” For instance, music teacher Andy Barnard uses a Makey Makey, in his class. Students draw and cutout an instrument onto cardboard. The small circuit board is programmed via computer to make applicable sounds when alligator clips are attached as keys. “You plug this into the computer via a USB and you have various keys on the computer. By coding, you apply different keys. By using the Makey Makey and alligator clips, you have conductive material act as those keys,” he said. Students make music from their coded cardboard cutout instruments. Anderson said that the accreditation is good for five years “This will be appealing to some folks. Folks will have options where to send their kids.” To his knowledge the accreditation would make Hickerson the only STEM school in this part of the state. “There are already millions of jobs that aren’t being filled. If we can help kids see at the elementary age it provides an opportunity for them as they continue through their school career, a path as they get older,” Anderson said. “The middle school (CCMS) has a STEM class and the high school has several classes that pertain to STEM. I think it would be great to have kids to see how does all that connect.” He said that STEM requires a lot of critical thinking and problem solving, collaboration and creativity. All aspects that carry over well into all career fields. “It’s going to just better their education even more,” he said. “Manchester and Tullahoma are annexing our kids. A lot of times they hear that those systems are better than Coffee County. We’ve proven here to be very successful on test scores as well as educating the whole child and making sure that they know what’s what,” Anderson added.