LancasterThrivingFallWinter2017 - 9

PEQUEA VALLEY
Goes All out for STEM

It starts in kindergarten at Pequea Elementary, where fairy tale engineering involves
building houses for three little pigs and building bridges for three gruff billy goats.
In second grade, small hands grasp tiny trains that hover over miniature tracks-trains
of the future propelled by magnetic levitation.
Exercises like these helps kids learn gradually; years later, they're calculating the
physics to propel the trains-and loving it. Engaging and immersing children
in STEM when they're so young is one reason Mitch Swords was selected as
Elementary STEM Teacher of the Year at the Lancaster-Lebanon IU13 STEM
Awards Banquet.
The IU also named Pequea Valley (PV) High School as STEM School of the Year and
Astrophysics teacher Rob Webb as Secondary STEM Teacher of the Year. Instructor
Tim Hess, PV 's STEM Chair, says Webb helped the school start a 9th grade program
("STEM9"). Now, Hess says, "STEM is something the students are working with from
kindergarten on, so they expect it as a core subject." Coding is a part of just about
everything, and naturally the kids love learning about robotics and, of course,
anything using Legos.
The Pequea Valley's STEM program achieved a pretty amazing result since its
inception: over a 10% increase in students' Algebra Keystone test results. They've
added a grade to the STEM program every year and recently doubled STEM9 to
180 days. What's STEM9's fun project? Building a car that goes really, really, really
slow. As in one-eighth of an inch a minute. Now that takes creativity. LT

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