How a new STEM lab is transforming learning for students
3D printing. Video production. Circuits and robotics programming. These are just a few of the available options in the STEM lab that opened at Hamilton Middle School in January 2020. The lab is one of 17 DPS classrooms that have recently been transformed into engaging spaces where students can learn and practice 21st-century skills. Made possible with funding from a voter-approved 2016 DPS bond and mill levy, the lab is now available to all of Hamilton’s 770 students.
In addition to STEM class use, the lab will also serve as a creative learning solutions space, with items like die cutters and a sewing machine available for student use. The state-of-the art video production area allows the student-led “Husky News Network” to make use of a green screen, teleprompter and editing programs. Eighth-grader and Tech Club president Alejandro Martinez says, “I’m particularly excited about the robotics we can now do in the new STEM lab…I’m also very excited to be able to make professional-level videos.”
Before the new lab was completed, STEM opportunities were sometimes limited by space and resources. Students now have access to the necessary equipment to prepare for national robotics competitions. Whereas sixth-grade students were previously able to study wind energy, they can now also study and test cells in solar, hydro-electric and fuel cell energy.
The benefits of STEM are significant for middle school students, who are at a critical age for developing foundational thinking skills. Growing career fields like engineering require the ability to view issues from many perspectives, and STEM integrates key problem-solving skills with math and literacy. According to eighth-grader Jackson Adams, “the STEM program at Hamilton is a great foundation for students who want to go into the fields of technology, engineering and biotech…I loved learning about biotech by learning how to diagnose and remove a tumor from a sheep brain. It was super cool and super stinky!”
“Everyone deserves the opportunity to push their thinking,” says Hamilton teacher Tricia Fussner, speaking to the importance of middle school-age students developing skills in problem-solving. “A large part of STEM is also exposure to different careers…this provides equitable opportunity for students to determine their future paths.”