Skilled to Work: Florence City Schools focus on STEM classes for new academic year

The new classes didn't cost the district any extra money.

Posted: Jul 30, 2019 3:11 PM
Updated: Jul 31, 2019 11:21 AM

School is just around the corner! This year, many North Alabama school districts are focusing on science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM.

Florence City Schools will have two specific STEM classes for younger students at Forest Hills Elementary School.

Julie Lane will be one of the STEM class teachers. She said they will use and incorporate all sorts of cool technology in the class, like Dash, their robot that first graders will learn how to code on in order to get the robot to move.

"They can code it to go in different directions, make it turn, light up and make different sounds," said Lane. "They can record their voice saying something and have it repeat it. So, if you wanted to do a report on something or someone, they can record it to move, for example, down a timeline. They could move down a timeline and say, 'At this point in history, this happened,' and Dash could stop and say that report."

Lane pulled up some of the computer codes students will learn on their Chromebooks. More opportunities like this will be given to students in the STEM classes.

"We have a green screen that makes them feel like they are on a virtual field trip anywhere in the world and multiple other resources. Our students also have Chromebooks and iPads that will be a part of this class for the research component," said Forest Hills Elementary School Principal Laurie Fowler.

Fowler said the push for STEM classes in Florence City Schools is next-level.

"Every child in our school will visit the STEM labs each week for at least 45 minutes and while they are in this class, they will focus on innovate and creative activities that foster that learning, really focusing on science, technology, engineering and mathematics," said Fowler.

The National Conference of State Legislatures said studies show introducing young students to STEM classes helps the skills stick in their minds.

"As we focus so much on reading and math, we don't lose the focus on creativity and innovation, because those are the types of skills these children will need when they leave us to solve problems," said Fowler.

The federal government said STEM jobs are projected to grow by 17% compared to other job sectors. That's why Fowler is starting the STEM classes this academic year.

"The earlier we introduce these STEM classes to our students, we feel that we are better equipping them for their futures," said Fowler.

Superintendent Jimmy Shaw said it's all part of a larger push to prepare the next generation.

"I think it's a statewide and a nationwide push. I think we as a school system and Mrs. Fowler as a principal wanted to make sure our kids have that step ahead and that they are submerged," said Shaw.

Florence City Schools said having the two new classes didn't come at an extra cost. They write grants to get the technology for the classes.

If the district sees success at Forest Hills Elementary, it will have them in every elementary school next school year. Florence City Schools aren't alone in the STEM push. Madison City Schools will have classes for fourth graders this school year.