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Lawrence Twp Schools working to make early connections to jobs of the future through STEM learning

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Posted at 6:00 AM, Jul 24, 2019

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LAWRENCE — For students in Lawrence Township, it is never too early to get exposure to careers of the future. That means challenging kids to find solutions to real-world problems but using hands-on learning in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Kevin Kemper, principal at Indian Creek Elementary School in Lawrence Township, said they challenge their teachers to come up with creative ways to incorporate STEM learning in their classrooms.

"Really making sure that we provide them with challenges with hands-on experiences that prepare them for the future workplace," Kemper said. "The future workplace is going to hold jobs that currently don't exist so we have to challenge our students with problems that really currently don't have answers. Anything that is 'google-able' if that's even a word is obsolete. That's not what the future workforce needs. They need unknown answers, people that can come in and solve problems that don't have current answers."

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When RTV6 stopped by the school, a class of 4th grade students worked on coding sensors to put on robots. Those robots would move across a mat according to where the students wanted them to go, and it is all in preparation to code more sensors to create more intelligent bots by the time they graduate from the building.

Coding is a skill that is in high demand in the workforce, but that is not the main reason why these students were learning these skills. The main purpose behind the STEM learning is problem solving.

"That's the essence of what we are doing, because that's the essence of future jobs — solving world problems," Kemper said. "That's what we want to start doing as early as first and second grade."

Lawrence Township Schools follow what they call the 3 E's to learning and career-readiness.

The first "E" is about exposure and this happens in elementary schools. Kemper says without the exposure to these science, technology, engineering and mathematics programs, many students would not picture themselves working in those types of careers. But the school works to expose all students to these options so they can picture themselves working in a number of fields from a young age no matter where they came from on a socio-economic level.

"Maybe allowing them to be able to see a different path for themselves than they previously would've done if they didn't have this opportunity at our school," Kemper said.

Middle school students "Explore" those options a little deeper to discover their interests, High school students dive even deeper technically to develop an "Expertise" in a specific subject matter to assist in their work-readiness.

The goal is to put problems in front of the kids that they can't just google or memorize. The students are pushed outside of their boxes to problem solves — a skill that employers look for in prospective employees.

Mia Holder is a 4th-grade student working on her robot.

"It's challenging for me and my partner but it's fun at the same time," Holder said. "It's like fun but it's not recess fun. It's like a type of fun where it will help you in the future."

While Holder and her classmates test out their sensors, 2nd grade students are working with chickens and incubators.
Not only are they using mathematics skills, but they are learning about the life cycles of chickens and how incubation methods work.

Kris McAloon, assistant director for instructional technology, said this type of learning is all about rethinking the way we have looked education for years now.

"When you think about the new economy, you think about some of the jobs that are available out in the real world today and the change and the impact of technology in the economy," says McAloon. "That should influence the way that we educate our children."

Lawrence Township's STEM for All includes school-wide projects, and advanced level courses in robotics, computer science, engineering and more.