Research has proven that early engagement and hands-on learning are among the best ways to prepare students for the workplace. And with a growing emphasis on careers in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math, an early understanding of these topics will give students a competitive edge and help them decide what career paths might interest them.
Through the STEMsmart initiative, Sarasota County schools are now equipped with tech-active “classrooms of tomorrow,” featuring industry-standard computers, handheld devices and other science- and math-related equipment, which exposes students to the type of work and activities they might someday undertake in the professional world.
“Any time you can incorporate scientific equipment in the classroom, there’s going to be more student engagement and buy-in,” says Jason Sharrock, a science teacher at Sarasota Middle School, which was recently named the STEMsmart school of the year. “Before, the technology was everywhere but in the classroom – students actually had more technology in their pockets with their cellphones than what was available in the classroom. Now, there are so many more stimulating things for students to be engaged with.”
Teachers at Sarasota Middle School say that the incorporation of this type of in-classroom technology has shifted learning from the traditional teacher-centric model of education to a more student-driven one.
“The teacher has become more of a facilitator,” says math teacher Donna Winstead. “I find myself letting my students do more thinking and letting them struggle to find the answer on their own, which can be hard as a teacher. But it really promotes critical thinking, and it gives them an opportunity early on to see these fields and see that they can be successful in them.”
For Principal Karen Rose, the STEMsmart School of the Year award is a testament to the environment her students and teachers have created.
“It’s a reflection of what I have the privilege of seeing every day,” she says. “Which is engaged students — happy students — experiencing things they would in these career fields.”
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