STEM community adjusts to restrictions


Every school day, the 9th grade STEM students come into their hands-on-learning classes, sit in their rooms set up for group projects, surround themselves with students ready for teamwork…and stare at the board and take notes.

Since the program began, STEM has provided students with the opportunity for a much more project-based education than standard classes. But this year, due to COVID-19 restrictions, these students can no longer partake in this traditional way of learning. 

”Right out of the gate [during a normal year] we always start with a project, so that just didn’t happen,” STEM tech teacher Shawn Kimbrough said. 

Regularly, these students would engage in building projects such as catapults, gliders and solar boats. This year, these projects have been stripped away from them and they have had to come up with new ways to learn. 

This odd start to the school year is inconvenient for students who have moved districts, such as freshman Lucy Hennessy. This means she has never been a part of a community like this one before. STEM is extremely group-oriented and would give new students a chance to get to know their classmates. 

“STEM is different from what I expected because it was presented as doing more work in groups than individually,” Hennessy said. 

She, among many others, have been experiencing a STEM community much different than the one laid out. 

However, the program is trying its best to remain positive and look on the bright side. Teachers and students alike have expressed their excitement for what is to come. 

“The hope is once everyone comes back we start off with [projects],” STEM student Gennie Dimmerling said. 

The plan is that once everyone comes back together, group work will be able to continue as normal and students will finally be able to work together as a team. Kimbrough and the other teachers have lined up some projects that the kids will be able to complete. 

“[Group work] is something that helps students to better understand topics because they can bounce ideas off of each other,” Hennessy said. 

In a normal year, students would start off with the glider project, which includes going to the Maps museum and communicating with aviators and looking at planes. Along with the limits on group projects, field trips have also been prohibited. This wipes out their project entirely. 

These kids are also excited for the communication with other students because the current last-name split in the student population really limits it. Often, during work time where students are permitted to talk amongst themselves, they will find themselves texting each other from across the room because it is easier than trying to talk through the masks. 

Freshman Adam Crowder was looking forward to STEM because it would give him the opportunity to move around and work not sitting at a desk. However this hasn’t been available to him due to the COVID-19 restrictions. 

“I am really excited to work with people that I haven’t been able to yet because it makes school much more enjoyable,” Crowder said. 

 In addition, they have decided to focus not on what they’re missing out on, but possibly some of the opportunities COVID-19 is providing. 

STEM is designed to model engineering and real-world companies and careers. Due to COVID-19, these companies also cannot perform business as usual. This virus is giving STEM an opportunity to model how these engineers might have to adapt in a real-life situation. 

“One thing that I was thinking about is industry has to do this; they still have to move forward and they’re still accomplishing things,” Kimbrough said. 

Though STEM may not appear this year in its traditional form, one thing is for sure: it will give these students a first-hand experience in adapting to new problems and situations.

“My first inclination was this is impossible, but then I started thinking,” Kimbrough said. 

The 2020-2021 freshman STEM students will step away from this year having learned the valuable skill of problem-based learning, and in the end, that really is the goal.