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Creating a well-rounded education with STEM

Critical thinking and creative problem-solving skills are essential, and research shows that a strong STEM background can enhance these skills. STEM courses present students with scenarios in which there are often multiple routes to the correct answer, which teaches them how to think outside the box and approach issues with multiple perspectives. When STEM lessons are framed within fun, engaging activities, their efficacy is multiplied.

The Collierville Education Foundation is committed to funding STEM grants that provide students with exciting opportunities to engage with science, technology, engineering or math activities. Below, we outline a few of our STEM grants that are making an impact in our students’ education.

Having fun with circuits.

Understanding how circuits work is an essential part of a basic education and a great introduction to critical thinking processes. But learning about them on paper isn’t always engaging for students. Kathy Hauss, a teacher at Crosswind Elementary, noticed this and decided to bring fun into circuit education with her “Connecting the BRAIN and CIRCUITS” grant. This grant provides students with their very own circuit kits that, when completed, dazzle with lights, bells, a radio and even a whirring fan! Students spend the class combining a variation of kit materials under the guidance of their teacher until they successfully connect the circuit. They then get to bring their creations home to show off to family, reinforcing a lifelong interest in STEM subjects!

Connecting with physics.

A basic understanding of physics is a building block for success in high school and college. Roller coasters and other amusement park rides are often used to teach students multiple concepts in physics, but experiencing the lessons these rides offer firsthand is usually out of the question – unless you’re in Jennifer Conti’s class at Schilling Farms! Although Ms. Conti’s students don’t actually ride roller coasters, they do get to do the next best thing: build them. They learn about properties of movement and dynamics through the K’nex Education Amusement Park Experience Set thanks to the “Wheeee! Fun with Physics” grant.

With this set, students work together to design, build and test their own amusement rides using the K’nex interlocking parts construction system. They then research their designs to explain the physical laws at work and present their coaster to their peers. Ms. Conti adds that this activity, “encourages critical thinking, exploratory learning, discovery, scientific inquiry and experimentation,” which is imperative to strong education.

Tuning in with technology.

A wonderful part of STEM courses is that they’re applicable to so many areas. The many capabilities of technology often enable students to perfect soft skills, such as leadership and public speaking. That was the inspiration and guiding thought behind Jana Blanchard’s “The Kids are Running the Show” grant at Tara Oaks. Through her grant, students can run a live, televised production for their fellow students.

Beyond developing a strong understanding of studio equipment, public speaking and leadership, this grant also helps students recover from the feeling of isolation after COVID-19. One student said that the announcement production “really made me feel better about everything [happening] right now. COVID-19 has us all separated, but our news really brings us together.”

These are just a few of the many ways that CEF’s grants are enriching the STEM education at Collierville Schools. We are excited to see what our students and teachers continue to do with these innovative grants and are honored to be a part of groundbreaking curriculum.


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