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Ready for STEM at Polser Elementary School

Polser Elementary School student learning with materials provided by LEF Teacher Grant

Polser Elementary School’s littlest learners enjoyed a new addition to their classrooms this year. With the help of an LEF teacher grant, PreK teacher Alice Tremonte implemented her STEM project “Try, Try Again... Ready for STEM” into PreK learning spaces.

“The purpose of this project is to back up and focus on growing skills ultimately needed to participate in STEM investigations,” Tremonte said. “Complete with tiny lab coats just like the teacher sized ones adorning the doors in our STEM Academy hallways, the center was an instant favorite with the preschoolers.”

STEM learning combines science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Educating students through the intertwined nature of these subjects as early as the PreK level can spark lifelong a lifelong curiosity of the STEM field.

Tremonte used the materials provided to incorporate designated STEM areas into learning centers, creating opportunities for hands-on learning. Students constructed small doghouses for toy dogs using critical thinking skills. They stacked foam blocks in water, observing how many could be stacked without sinking. Students also used problem solving skills to build stable skyscrapers.

“We have 110 minutes of student-led center time each day.  Students choose their centers, and teachers and paraprofessionals facilitate as needed.  Activities at centers are intentionally designed to target Texas Prekindergarten Guidelines addressed in each curriculum theme.”

At the beginning of the project, students engaged primarily in exploration. As the project progressed to various stages, students developed different abilities including communication, collaboration, spatial reasoning, problem solving, and critical thinking.

“At the beginning of the year, a typical preschooler may get upset and frustrated if a carefully constructed block tower falls down,” Tremonte said. “After coaching and practice at the STEM center, this same student eventually will decide to rebuild the tower and make it better!”

Tremonte noted the fitting nature of scientific exploration in PreK classrooms.

“Preschoolers are natural scientists,” Tremonte said. “Just watch them finding and examining blades of grass, bugs, and teeny tiny flowers on the playground! I'd like them to be able to use this curiosity in the STEM center.”

Project materials are available in each Polser Elementary School PreK classroom and will remain to continue aiding in PreK education for years to come.

“Through frequent hands-on exploration and experimentation all year long, students will learn resiliency and persistence,” Tremonte said. “This project will equip students with readiness skills for their next step: the rigors of engineering/STEM learning in kindergarten and beyond.”

Through data collected through the school year, Tremonte found the inaugural year of her project successful.

 “At least 80% of the pre-k students earned ‘proficient’ in the focus areas assessed,” Tremonte said. “ECSE (early childhood special education) students showed progress on their language and social skills IEP (individualized education plan) goals.  Additionally, the English Language Learners all earned ‘proficient’ on listening and speaking skills.  This data shows that the project goal of guiding students to build and strengthen prerequisite language, social, math and science skills critical for engineering/STEM learning in LISD was met!”

The implementation of Try, Try Again... Ready for STEM at Polser Elementary School is an example of LEF and members of the LISD community coming together for the betterment of teacher and students alike.

“We did it!  We tried and tried again, and now we are ready for STEM,” Tremonte said. “The grant materials provided the opportunity to bump activities up to a new level of exploration and student engagement that was maintained all year long at the STEM center.  Thank you, LEF and DATCU for funding this project!”

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