Teachers pair middle-schoolers with older students for STEM project

Schools: Kareen Borders, Dave Stitts starting a project that bridges gap between grade levels

of the GatewayFebruary 5, 2014 

Dr. Kareen Borders is always looking to stretch the minds of her science students at Key Peninsula Middle School. Her class will team up with chemistry classes at Peninsula High School taught by Dave Stitts.

It’s a pilot program, called “STEM Innovation,” that will kick off at the Galaxy Theater from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Feb. 10. The program will focus on STEM education.

Borders’ eighth-grade students at KPMS will work with high school students in Stitts’ chemistry and advanced placement classes.

Borders, who recently returned from a one-year post with the Department of Education, tries to incorporate out-of-the-box STEM learning. She set up a live link with the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. Her eighth-grade science class is working on Newton’s Laws; they’ll get the chance to talk about their experiments with professional scientists.

STEM, which stands for science, technology, engineering and math, has become an education priority in the past few years. Last week, eight-grade science students were designing experiments in Borders’ class. The groups developed an experiment to test Newton’s Second Law — that acceleration of an object depends on a net force that acts on the object and the object’s mass.

Sabrina Carey, Connor Bass, Emily Opedal, Kaitlyn Glenn and Emily Aliment worked on an experiment that involved a car powered by a wound-up rubber band.

Borders uses the live link to NASA scientists to encourage the students to work like they’re in the real world, not a classroom. She teaches STEM by putting science in the context of a scientific community.

“They don’t just develop something in isolation,” she said.

The program with Peninsula High School acts much the same way. Learning is not confined to classroom applications.

In the KPMS-Peninsula High partnership, classrooms will experiment side by side. There also will be a mentoring program. At the kickoff event at Galaxy Theater, there will be a presentation from the Pacific Science Center and a movie.

Reporter Karen Miller can be reached at 253-358-4155 or by email at karen.miller@gateline.com. Follow her on Twitter, @gateway_karen.

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