Ephrata school district picking up STEAM

By on January 30, 2019

Board also honors memory of students who passed earlier this month

Today’s students will need to learn tomorrow’s technology to get ahead in the world, and across the country, an educational initiative called STEAM is leading that charge.

While STEM — Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics — has changed the focus of education not that many years ago, STEAM adds “the arts” to the mix, to give students a more well-rounded education while still keeping an eye to the future. With that ever-changing future in mind, the Ephrata Area School District is emphasizing STEM and STEAM initiatives.

“We’re trying to find out what the next step is for our kids in technology,” Superintendent Dr. Brian Troop told the Ephrata School Board members Monday evening. One hallmark of the STEAM initiative is to offer very young students age-appropriate science and technology projects in order to instill an appreciation for science and the arts at a young age.

To make STEAM more fun, the district elementary schools recently held the “2019 Elementary STEAM Bowl” on Jan. 17. Eight teams of students in grades three and four, a total of 32 students, participated in the competition. Prior to the event, more than 650 students answered preliminary STEAM-related questions to determine who would represent their elementary school on each bowl team.

The teams each participated in a half-day competition, with Clay Elementary School finishing as the top fourth grade team and Highland Elementary School being named the top third grade team.
Both teams will represent the district in the annual IU13 STEM Bowl. Members of the Clay Elementary fourth grade team were Skylar Moua, Caleb Rice, Liam Miller, and Brennan Zucchi.
Members of the Highland third grade team were Cody Shaffer, Tre Beres, Christian Wilkes, and Traylynn Jones. In a related technology matter, board member Judy Beiler, in her role as representative to the Lancaster County Career and Technology Center, told the board about an interactive media and coding presentation given by the CTC’s students. Beiler said she was impressed by the skills and knowledge in these areas shown by the students.

To honor professional staff who aid students with technology, Troop presented “Superintendent Recognition” awards to three technology instructional coaches; Ben Rossman, Laura Mandell, and Meghan Hooper.

“The Superintendent Award is given to staff who take our mission statement and put it into action,” Troop said. “They are receiving this for helping to make the most of technology in our classrooms… instructional coaches help to inspire students to reach their full potential.”

The coaches also help to create a good technological instructional level and atmosphere where students get to figure out technology and learn strategy, he said. Rossman will be transferring to the high school where he will be a technology-integration specialist and instructional coach and will work with the Mounts’ technical support team.

Laura Mitchley was appointed by the board Monday evening to replace Rossman as a district-wide instructional coach.

Ephrata Area School Board member Chris Weber listens intently to the technology information presented by this student Monday evening.

Mandell will be an instructional coach for high school students, and Hooper, for grades five through eight. High school students can even learn to take apart and repair computers, Troop said.

“There are lots of cool things you can do with technology in high school,” Troop told the students of Fulton Elementary School, where the board meeting was taking place.
For their “Celebrating Public Education” moment, Fulton second-graders and their teachers gave a presentation about their “Community Cornerstone” projects.
The Cornerstone projects are a cross-curricular form of study where the students learn about careers in their community.

Elementary Principal Josh McCracken introduced second-grade teachers Jonelle Shenk and Jody Eberly, and media center specialist Jennifer Barnabei who explained the Cornerstone project.

The Community Cornerstone project is part of the Life-Ready Graduate initiative of the school district, and utilizes three components of that focus; acquiring knowledge, applying skills, and demonstrating disposition, McCracken said,

“We start as early as kindergarten, (teaching) what our kids will be doing when they leave these halls,” McCracken said. “What we want for our kids are real experiences to get them ready for the real world.”

When planning a project or educational program, teachers should ask if the project is “open-walled,” that is, does it expand beyond the classroom; does the student have some choice in the project; and will there be significant effort by the student, McCracken said.

With Community Cornerstone, the second-graders did research on careers in their community. After finding a career that interested them, the students did their research using technology and visiting some sites, speaking with people in those careers. Their findings for the class could include posters, talking about the job description, dressing in appropriate attire, and a digital presentation, using Adobe Spark.

Second grader Weston Candelaria, whose teacher is Jodi Eberly, created a graph that showed what he learned about firefighting.

“I went to a fire company twice,” Candelaria said. “I found out that sometimes firemen ride in boats (for water rescues), but I really just wanted to ride the trucks.”

Superintendent Troop also told the board about the 21 high school seniors who recently graduated from the Attollo program. This is the third year the school has implemented the Attollo program.
The Attollo Recruit program is a comprehensive educational program run by a non-profit organization in Lancaster. The program helps seniors to achieve their goal of becoming the first generation of their families to enter college.

Scholars come in early to school where they are mentored and given the resources necessary to reach their educational goals, and become leaders in their communities and schools.

“This is a great program and I’m so thankful that we have that program here,” said Board President Tim Stayer.

The following students recently graduated from the program: Roxanne Acosta, Fredasia Alston, Luke Andes, Naraly Archibald, Seth Atkinson, Brian Barrera, Blake Billingsley, Josh Burke, Sereiattanak Chap, Akaya Diem, Amber Duffney, Jordan Harnish, James Hoover, Michael Martin, Nayeli Morales, Austin Paparo, Jada Rojas, Kevin Singh, Angelina Stoltzfus, Kia Vang, and Winnie Zhang.

School board and administration honored the memory of one ninth grade student, Emily Rachelle Ramirez, who recently died, and also honored a 2018 high school graduate, Jaden Truskey, who died in a car accident recently. Board president Timothy Stayer opened the meeting with a moment of silence to remember the two students. Stayer said that High School principal Scott Galen and his staff worked with students and family members who needed grief counselors.

“We have strong support in the community,” Stayer said, thanking everyone for their concern. Since January is National School Board Recognition Month, the meeting began with a video presentation of students saying “thank you” to school board members.

“School boards can be compared to a garden, responsible for providing a good environment that helps kids to grow,” Troop said.

Each school board member received a gift in recognition of their service.

Marylouise Sholly is a correspondent for The Ephrata Review. 

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