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Pinellas County Public Schools Teach STEM Skills Through Interactive Play

Elementary and middle school students in Pinellas County Public Schools participate in hands-on learning and experimentation with robots that teach not only STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) but business and communication skills as well.

Thanks to a $10,000 grant from Suncoast Credit Union Foundation, 48 fourth- and fifth-grade students at Leila Davis Elementary School in Clearwater participate in a STEM Academy after school. The students design and build robots that allow them to explore scientific concepts with a hands-on approach. They also learn entrepreneurship, presentation skills and public speaking.

The initiative is part of a wider effort that began in October of last year by Pinellas County Superintendent Michael Grego. The program is funded by grants as well as county taxes. In all, 63 STEM academies have been created in elementary and middle schools within the past year, engaging students in fourth through eighth grade. The goal is to have all elementary and middle schools participating within the next year.

Students at Leila Davis Elementary are currently creating soccer players that move using robotics. They’re also designing
an alligator that will allow them to learn about the motion of its jaw and formation of its teeth. They’ve even designed a drummer and learned about the way it moves its hands and connects to music. Once the LEGOs are designed, students can make modifications using a computer program that interfaces with the robotics.

The program is 30 weeks long and has received positive feedback from parents and teachers.

Students also participated in a STEM expo at University of South Florida St. Petersburg. Each of the 63 schools had project boards that displayed their STEM components and how they relate to real-world concepts. Students shared their successes, challenges and how they overcame them.

The county’s overall goal is to encourage students to select accelerated math and science courses in high school and then ultimately a career path in a STEM field. The school district is currently working with business partners to make sure students graduate with the skills in demand for jobs.

"We’re trying to help fill a gap and provide our students with multiple opportunities to apply for different jobs and be competitive," says Laura Spence, STEM Coordinator for Pinellas County Schools.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Laura Spence, Pinellas County Schools

Read more articles by Megan Hendricks.

Megan Hendricks is a feature writer at 83 Degrees Media in the Tampa Bay region of Florida.
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