Rowan alternative school receives donations of materials for hands-on STEM education
The Bluegrass Discovery Academy, Rowan County’s alternative school, received over $8000 worth of STEM equipment last week. The supplies were donated by the Center for STEM+eXcellence at Morehead State University to facilitate Build Strong, a project-based learning experience.
Melanie Rogers, who teaches the Academy’s 15 high school students, said most days, her class is working with an online curriculum, meaning her students spend their time looking at computer screens. She said she was inspired to reach out to the Center after seeing her students engage with a hands-on project.
“In one of our icebreakers at the beginning of the year, the kids got in groups and constructed a little egg drop assembly, car, whatever you want to call it,” said Rogers. “They had a lot of fun with that, and I was like, we’ve got to do more of this!”
The partnership will enable Rogers to lead her students through the Build Strong Curriculum, a program developed by West Carter teacher Gary Coffman that introduces students to science, math, and engineering through the design and construction of functional structures.
Build Strong is typically run as a week-long summer program. Leeann Potter, the Assistant Director of the Center, said she’s seen the program positively impact kids, but attendance is often limited to students whose parents have the time and means to drive them to the sessions. She said that’s not necessarily the case for students at the Academy who often have limited access to opportunities.
“Some of the kids at the alternative school are in foster care,” said Potter. “They’re living with grandparents. They’ve got very limited access to many things. So, this will give us a different data set. As scientists, we need all the data. We know this program works. You can see the looks on these kids’ faces and you can see that the program works.”
Potter said she believes offering the Build Safe program to students with fewer experiential learning opportunities will prove how impactful the hands-on curriculum is. The Academy plans to lead students through the program this winter.