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A Letter from Tracy Springman, STEM Coordinator
The purpose of the STEM program at IRCS is to enhance student knowledge in areas of science, technology, engineering and math related skills with real-world application and provide opportunities to explore future professions that will allow students to make an eternal impact on the world. Even though our program is in its beginning stages, IRCS has made great strides in implementing a variety of STEM opportunities for students at each academic level. Our core values include developing critical thinking and science processing skills from a Christian worldview and the exploration of post-secondary education and occupations in STEM through robust partnerships within our community.
The video below from the spring of 2019, highlights several students involved in project-based learning as well as STEM instructors sharing the importance of increasing problem solving skills and creativity within our after school enrichment opportunities. As STEM jobs increase in the Tampa Bay area, our desire is to allow our students the opportunity to explore these possibilities and be better prepared for the future.
Preschool STEM Program
As little ones are naturally inquisitive and motivated explorers, IRCS supports these behaviors implementing STEM activities in the classroom. Each teacher creates an environment of curiosity and exploration as students observe and interact with God’s creation. Students have the freedom to ask questions and be creative problem solvers with teachers who love to foster a positive attitude toward STEM education. Through the use of hands-on activities, students obtain an understanding of the scientific and engineering processes and how important it is to care for our planet and show concern for others in our world.
Elementary STEM Program
Elementary STEM focuses on exploration and building critical thinking skills. Students have an opportunity to participate in an after school STEM enrichment program each 9 week period. They focus on a particular STEM challenge and at the end of the quarter, students have an exhibition day showing off their designs. In addition, during the normal school day, teachers provide periodic STEM activities woven within the curriculum.
One highlight we aim to do each year is connecting students to a real-world problem that one of our faith promise partners is experiencing. While learning more about the ministry of the specific partner, students learn how an understanding of STEM will help solve current problems on the field. Examples of recent areas of focus have been designing water wheels with an emphasis on partners living in Brazil and exploring solar power with an emphasis on the work being done in North Africa.
Middle School STEM Program
Middle school is a time when students are experiencing a lot of new changes. To assist them on their journey, we offer a variety of activities they can explore, both during and after school. The middle school computer science class introduces students to how computers function and interact with the digital world that has become a part of our everyday lives. It then begins them along a journey of computer programming where they will learn ways of providing instructions to computers in order to accomplish beneficial tasks. Additionally, Students have an opportunity to participate in the after-school Robotics Club. This club allows students to engineer, build and code robots to accomplish a new challenge that is presented each year by the REC Foundation (Robotics Education & Competition Foundation). During the fall, students will start preparing for the VEX IQ middle school competitions where they will work alongside many other teams from around our area seeking a spot at the State competition level and maybe even the worlds competition. Students in the 8th grade may also explore the computer science area of coding in an after school python coding class. The pre-honors 8th science class has an extended research project they will present during our science and engineering fair always held in January. This is great experience for students who are interested in diving deep into the scientific method and learning how to think like a scientist. All students in middle school enjoy hands-on activities within their science classes with passionate teachers who really enjoy what they teach.
High School STEM Program
High school is a time when students have a deeper opportunity to serve and build their resume for future education and employment. Like middle school students, They have a variety of after school activities they can explore. Students have an opportunity to participate in the Robotics Club. This after-school club allows students to engineer and code robots to accomplish a specific task. During the fall, students will start preparing for the VEX EDR High School Competition.
Students may also join additional clubs that focus on environmental concerns, medical career awareness or introduction to computer coding. These are all after school club opportunities for students to learn about different careers within our STEM community.
IRCS also engages in outside science, engineering and math competitions to challenge students to solve real-world problems. From 2016-2020, an IRCS student has taken home the Best of Show Project in the Senior Regional Science and Engineering Fair.
We are in the process of increasing our mentor base so students have a greater opportunity to form robust relationships with local experts in STEM fields to guide them during their individual research. Kaitlyn Yu and Jack Oleksak was also awarded at the Florida State Science and Engineering Fair in the engineering and plant science category.
There is also a yearly highlight of a specific problem facing one of our faith promise partners that certain classes are challenged to solve. Recently, the Physics II class was challenged with designing a pump system that would bring water to an education center in Brazil. Future implementation may be possible based on the design our students propose.
Lastly, high school students may apply for a STEM-related ministry mester trip. One recent trip was to Ecuador as our students joined 4 medical professionals to provide medical clinics deep within the Amazon jungle. They worked alongside our faith promise partners, David and Monica who shared the Gospel at every clinic. In the spring of 2019, a group of IRCS students and medical staff traveled to North Africa to serve the medical needs of a remote village as well as helped install a solar powered water pump system for the community. Trips like these can truly be life changing for all involved and they show how our gifts and talents in STEM fields can make a difference now and for eternity.