Holton, Greenbush team up for STEM courses at Banner
Holton High School students aren’t the only ones benefiting from a team effort of the Holton school district and the Greenbush special education cooperative of Girard to give students a greater exposure to the STEM curriculum.
On Thursday, HHS students were using computer-aided drawing (CAD) software to create a Thanksgiving turkey during a STEM course at the Banner Creek Science Center and Observatory. Students were also given the opportunity to observe how CAD-created designs can be brought to life through the use of a 3D printer.
But a few other visitors to Banner Creek Science Center that morning were able to see what STEM-based courses could offer students as well as themselves. Mike McManigal, treasurer of the science center’s board of directors, as well as Holton resident Tom Davies and his brother, Gary, visiting from Texas, were able to experience the 3D printer at work.
“That is too cool,” McManigal said in response to how the 3D printer performed.
Giving HHS students more of an idea of what to expect from STEM — which stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math — is largely the idea behind Holton teaming up with Greenbush for courses held last week and this week at the science center, according to Dr. Joe Kelly, assistant Holton superintendent and Colorado Elementary School principal.
“Right now, the state of Kansas is finding that it’s losing a lot of its engineers out of college,” Kelly said. “There is a renewed effort to boost the number of kids going into engineering and to keep them in the field once they graduate. So with this, hopefully, it sparks an interest with some of the possibilities that are going on with modern technology. It’s kind of the same goals and objectives of our applied technology class at Holton High School.”
Courses such as those offered during the visit from Greenbush’s mobile science lab — 3D printing, robotics and coding — also provide teachers and other staffers with a learning opportunity, Kelly said. Furthermore, Kelly said he is hopeful that other area schools, including Jackson Heights and Royal Valley, will also team up with Greenbush in the future.
“What I really hope is that we can make it sustainable for all schools in the area,” he said. “Banner Creek is a wonderful facility. It offers not just the telescope, which is a great resource, but they also have a lot of educational opportunities there, and if we can bring the other schools in as well, that just increases the number of opportunities.”
Greenbush program instructor Rich White agreed, noting that the courses offered by the Greenbush mobile lab are merely “get kids interested in STEM” courses, but they may lead to greater interest in the future.
“It doesn’t go really deep, but it does show them what’s possible using some simple tools,” White said. “Hopefully, with the experience they get from these courses, they’ll come away saying they like it, and they’ll know there are some higher-end tools that they could be using once they see what’s possible.”
Kelly said the Holton district worked with Greenbush in reviewing mobile lab resources available from the latter and determining how those resources could be meshed into Holton’s class objectives to determine which courses the mobile lab would bring to Banner Creek. One such course involves laser-based cutting tools, he said.
“Our ag classes are going to go check that out in January,” Kelly said. “That’s something they’re using up there at Schenck Process in Sabetha. That would be neat if they had that exposure before they got into any career or technical training, or if they thought about becoming an engineer.”
Even though White said the two 3D printers used during Thursday’s class were “already obsolete,” they still can be utilized to wow not only students who are unfamiliar with the technology, but teachers and other members of the community as well.
“These students are really super-engaged with these subjects,” White said. “My background is in working with middle schoolers, and when it comes to keeping them engaged, they’re just a different breed. But when you’re working with high schoolers, you find they’re willing to get engaged in the class and work with the tools you give them.”
It also gives older visitors to the courses an insight of just how much education has changed.
“A long time ago, it used to be that you would work individually a lot,” Kelly said. “A lot of this new technology and science requires that you work together and use the scientific method for things that may happen that are unexpected. There’s a lot of trial and error and thinking about your own thinking that comes up, and that’s really what’s important about this — the transferrable skills.”
The Holton district was able to make use of Greenbush’s mobile labs through a donation from the district’s Parent-Teacher Organization that covered half of Greenbush’s $5,000 costs for this week’s visit, Kelly said. Banner Creek Science Center is also looking to cover part of those costs through donations from the science center’s supporters, he added.