STEM Learning Labs

Jenks Public Schools Foundation STEM Learning

The Jenks Public Schools Foundation is invested in bringing the STEM Learning Lab experience to life for every student in the JPS District. Through the generosity of our donors, the Foundation has installed learning labs at East and West Intermediate sites, as well as all four of our elementary sites. Our STEM fundraising initiatives aim to establish STEM Learning Labs in all of our sites throughout the District.

Why STEM Learning Labs Matter

Life is filled with problems far more complex than “find X.”

For Liz Hutto, 9th grade STEM Facilitator at Jenks Freshman Academy, this is one of the core reasons why STEM Learning Labs are an irreplaceable part of every student’s educational experience.

“STEM pushes the limits of creativity and problem solving—problem solving being the biggest part of STEM learning,” says Hutto. “Businesses need good problem solvers and people who can work together. In the real world, we need people who can work cooperatively, be creative, and understand content knowledge. We don’t get problems like ‘find X.’ [The real world] is more innovative than that.”

Creativity, cooperation, and problem solving combine with time management and responsibility to form the framework of the STEM curriculum, which provides students with a self-directed, hands-on approach to learning. It is a learning environment that encourages students to extend their learning beyond the classroom and discover new interests.

“I have students who get low grades in other classes, but they come up with the most spectacular projects here because they’re allowed to use their creativity and their hands, work with others, and problem solve in a much more effective way than other traditional classroom settings allow,” says Hutto.

“The goal is to create lifelong learners. The reality is that you won’t always be sitting in a classroom. Students learn past regular school hours all the time.”

In order to create these lifelong learning experiences, Hutto encourages her students to utilize the STEM Learning Lab as a platform for discovering passions in the areas of science, technology, engineering, math, and the arts.

Each student maintains a digital portfolio on Google Drive to document the experiences, challenges, and goals of every project. By the end of the semester, these portfolios will be filled with descriptions of activities such as stop-motion animation, sound engineering, stereogram design, robotics, pneumatics, video game design, Photoshop editing, film editing, digital arts, and even creating a solar oven—all of which are managed entirely by the students in two-person teams.

The energy emanating from the STEM Learning Lab and the genuine level of enthusiasm shown by the students create an environment in which it is instantly clear that you are experiencing something truly special—and even life-changing.

“Having a class like this is absolutely necessary,” says Hutto. “We don’t know what jobs are going to be available down the road. There’s a need to help prepare [students] with these 21st century skills so that they are employable by the time they get out of school.”

“The goal is not to breed engineers in the STEM lab. You may find something in here that sparks an interest and a passion so that your next step could be in that direction. We’re hoping to give students an opportunity to experience the arts or sound engineering and realize that, while I might not be great at AP Biology right now, that doesn’t make me a failure—I can take a different avenue and be successful with a different approach. I hope that more students are able to have this experience.”

Click Here to download the STEM Learning Lab Sponsorship Form

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