This week’s blog was penned by our President and CEO Jeff Golner
A photo of a pallet of boxes. Nothing special. Typical, bland boxes. Not a big deal. What is inside of those boxes? The casual observer upon further review would find several STEM Sports® teacher manuals. A closer look would reveal a small graphic on the upper right corner that simply says Volume 2. After opening a few more boxes and taking inventory, one would come to find STEM Basketball, STEM Football, STEM Multi-Sport, STEM Soccer and STEM Volleyball manuals.
When I look at this pallet I see much, much more. I see potential. I see the endless possibilities that could equate to a stadium engineer, an Olympic gold medalist, or a franchise general manager. And even if K-8 students don’t achieve these lofty occupational goals down their path, we know that inside of those boxes lies so many possibilities. Perhaps our supplemental STEM curriculum will introduce a student to a sport that they had no interest nor ever participated in. Or most importantly, the student that struggles with numeracy and math now, may finally unlock their potential because their favorite sport and our curriculum finally revealed the math equation that they were finding difficulty with.
Little head explosions. This is the term I use when I describe what happens when our curricula and our methods are unleashed in classrooms or after school programs. I use my hands next to my head and repeatedly open and close my hands. This act is my way of describing what occurs inside of a student’s brain during their experience with the unique combination of STEM and sports. I sometimes also refer to this as a cognition ignition! We hear variations of this result continuously from teachers and administers of our curricula and nothing could make us prouder.
What we are also extremely proud of is Volume 2, the contents of the boxes on that overused pallet. A labor of true love, we set off to redeploy these curricula over a year ago. While we didn’t think it would take as long as it did, it wound up requiring a year. Our Director of Curriculum and Strategy Sean Barton’s first task upon being hired was to take a look at how can we improve our novel, first entry. I too had ideas but really let him steer the boat and we added some outstanding rowers to guide us down the way. Teachers Rachel Kissner and Alicia Majercin really led this charge along with a dozen other teachers who piloted our new modules in their classrooms with willing and able students. Over the course of 2019, we also asked current teachers who were working with Volume 1 lessons to tell us, unfiltered, what was good, bad and indifferent about their experience. We received excellent suggestions, feedback and confirmation about ways we could make improvements to benefit the teachers and their students. I equated the results of their Volume 1 feedback to a B to B+ score. The priority was to create Volume 2 so that when thoroughly reviewed, we would receive A+ scores, across the board. I’m very confident that we’ll achieve that in 2020 and beyond.
Inside of those palletized boxes now includes unique and differentiated lesson plans for third, fourth and fifth graders and sixth, seventh and eighth grade students. This alone was the biggest improvement in our curricula and when paired with the 5E lesson sequence, you’ll be hard pressed to find anything else like it on the planet or in a pallet! Then, we added key functions such as time needed for lessons, supplies provided and materials needed per module. But wait there’s more! We made student assessments a part of the lesson. These assessments are digital and applied with ease for the teacher/administer. Results will be instantaneous. Last and far from least and the reason why STEM education exists: we added jobs/occupations, with a sports angle, that pertain to each and every lesson. When student’s ask, “why do I have to learn Newton’s 2nd Law?” or “when will I ever use this information”, now they’ll know. There are several jobs listed that are applicable to these modules.
What lies ahead is difficult to predict as our entire world is engulfed in a pandemic. Of course, we wish for everything to remain normal, everyone to be safe and healthy and have students return to their classrooms to begin the new school year. But we are not in control of that. While we know that our curriculum is on school campuses in (at least) 48 states, without teachers and students in classrooms, tiny head explosions have been vastly minimized. So, we pivoted to distance and virtual learning and the results have been more than acceptable. While we know there is nothing better than “being there”, teaching and thus learning under these new parameters will have to do. Head explosions will be different but still quantifiable. The challenges that students are experiencing now are everything that STEM and STEM Sports® strives to improve upon. Challenges such as leadership, critical thinking, problem solving and collaboration are certainly being put to the test.
So, take a look again at the photo of the pallet. What do you see now? Perhaps the words shared with you have a different meaning. It ignites something different. With my family, during the holidays or birthday celebrations, while opening gifts, we often say “don’t trust the box!”. Meaning, the box may convey one thing but the contents may be totally different. It gives me great pleasure to type that you can trust those boxes!
It could go without saying but not here: Thank you to all that were involved in the process to get to Volume 2 and even those from the past that were involved with our first edition.
We look forward to working with you and your students in the near future and of course, hope you all stay safe and healthy. Thank you for your time!