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Norwin program aims to develop science, technology, engineering, math, skills

| Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Students as young as kindergartners will have the opportunity to build inquiry-based skills through a new program in the Norwin School District this fall.

The program, called STEM Squires, will challenge students in kindergarten through the fourth grade to complete quests in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM, fields and one related to a STEM-related career.

Students will earn five badges and ultimately earn the title “STEM Squire.”

“We just identified that we wanted to do something in the kindergarten, first and second grades specifically,” Natalie McCracken, assistant superintendent of elementary education, said.

“What we recognize with kids, when they're younger, they're curious and imaginative. They're open to thinking and learning.”

After students completes a quest in one of the areas, they will present their findings to a panel of teachers. Students must be able to explain their project and findings.

For example, to earn the science badge, a student could participate in the school science fair, McCracken said. Interviewing an engineer would earn a student a badge for the STEM-related career quest, she said.

The program is voluntary, but, McCracken said, she anticipates a majority of the district's students in the target grades will participate.

Of the district's 5,265 students, about 2,000 are in kindergarten through fourth grade.

“We want to capitalize the way young people think,” McCracken said. “We want them to solve a problem or test a hypothesis. We don't want STEM to be an initiative; we want STEM to be a way of life.”

The program is the latest push district officials have placed on STEM-focused learning.

Over the summer, officials offered a variety of educational camps to keep students engaged in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. One of the camps, “Camp Invention” was specifically targeted at students entering grades one through six.

Amanda Dolasinski is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.

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