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Friday, May 16th, 2008

Students to gain hands-on training

By William Kincaid
FORT RECOVERY - Science and math teaching is changing from textbooks to more hands-on activities at some area schools.
Fort Recovery, New Bremen and St. Henry schools were awarded a collective $500,000 grant this year from The Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Education Coalition.
Fort Recovery teachers Crystal Guggenbiller and Carrie Kahlig - who traveled to Boston last month for STEM related professional development - told their school board members this week they will use new inquiry-based techniques in various classes to teach math, science, technology and engineering.
For instance, Guggenbiller, a middle school science teacher, said she will separate students in groups. The groups will work together to solve problems and complete projects, such as the creation of a miniature wind mill.
The skills will be applicable not only to engineering, but future jobs as well, she said.
This summer, a STEM camp will be held for students entering the sixth grade. Also, next year there will be a STEM lab for seventh-graders. The students will learn about laser engravers and CNC machines while working with leather, plastic and aluminum.
School officials want to change prevailing student perceptions about engineering - particularly, the notion of engineering as an exclusively male vocation.
When Guggenbiller recently asked her students their thoughts about engineering, she said one boy innocently said only men can be engineers. Many in the class said their fathers, grandfathers or uncles were engineers, but few mentioned female relatives.
By employing two young female teachers to coordinate and teach STEM issues, some school officials hope girls may be less intimidated and more willing to engage engineering.
So far, the school has spent $130,000 of its grant money on technology equipment, Superintendent David Riel said.
Elementary Principal Shelly Vaughn said Fort Recovery is now collaborating and networking with New Bremen and St. Henry school officials like never before.
"We've (gained) so much from this partnership," Vaughn said.
When asked by board President Dan Kahlig where she sees Fort Recovery in five years, Vaughn said a school of elementary students with a good understanding of engineering concepts.
An engineering background is a good foundation for all students, STEM grant coordinator Nancy Knapke and Kahlig said. Many college students who start out in engineering but change majors still become important professionals such as doctors and dentists, Kahlig said.
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