Indiana Junior High Introduces a New STEM Lab for Students

Thanks in part to a $50,000 Digital Learning Grant last year from the Indiana Department of Education, Greensburg Junior High School now has a new facility for students called the STEMConnects Lab.

by Joshua Heath, Greensburg Daily News / February 27, 2020
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(TNS) — Greensburg Junior High School now has a STEMConnects Lab.

Last spring, the school was awarded funding from the Indiana Department of Education in the form of a Digital Learning Grant. Part of the monies were spent in the science classrooms to implement STEM units, and the other portion was used to purchase equipment for the lab.

The school received a $50,000 grant last year.

Greensburg Community Schools was one of 48 school districts that were awarded the Digital Learning Grant last year for a grand total of $2.2 million in funding.

Last year, when it was announced the school had received the award, GJHS Technology Integrationist Nick Parcell said the impact it had was “huge” and “there was no way” they could have afforded the equipment without the grant.

Parcell also said they kept the school district’s pathways in mind.

Different pathway groups consist of Agriculture; Architecture and Construction; Arts, AV Technology and Communications; Business and Marketing; Civic Arts; Education and Teaching; Health Science; Hospitality and Human Services; Information Technology; Manufacturing and Logistics; Public Safety; and STEM.

“As we were writing the grants, that [pathways] was definitely in our mind – to help kids get from here to there and beyond,” Parcell said.

Parcell co-authored the grant with science department chair and teacher Dana Calfee.

“We can’t be excited enough on a daily basis that we have the opportunity to build this into our culture,” Calfee said.

According to Parcell, the STEMConnects Lab is a place where all students can come to learn about digital design and creation through the use of 3D printers, laser cutters, CNC mills and other tools.

They complete challenges on the equipment to work their way to mastery and then they are able to use the equipment for their own purposes or for class. Teachers are also able to create projects that utilize the equipment.

“STEMConnects is an entity/program/organization that we created to house or guide everything in our building related to STEM,” Parcell said. “The idea being that STEM connects to every aspect of our students' lives and futures. Beyond the obvious STEM subject areas, students use technology to learn in school and out of school, they communicate using STEM, their future jobs will involve STEM, they interact with the world using STEM, they wear STEM. STEM is a part of everything.”

Parcell said part of the money was used to purchase equipment for the STEMConnects Lab, such as 3D printers, a CNC mill, a laser cutter, a sewing machine, camera equipment, electronics, microcomputers, tools, and more.

“All GJHS students are able to come to the lab and work through challenges on any of the pieces of equipment and work towards certification,” Parcell said. “After a student is certified they are able to use the tool for classroom or personal reasons.”

At the end of the day, if GJHS is able to get students excited about something, they’re doing something right. Right now, GJHS is providing students with opportunities to explore creativity and prepare for life after high school.

©2020 the Greensburg Daily News (Greensburg, Ind.) Distributed b& Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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