The mascot at Vickery Elementary is the Voyager, so from the start it is clear these students are meant to go places. Consider that the school is named for Marjory Vickery, the first female to serve on LISD’s Board of Trustees, and it becomes clear that “Full STEAM Ahead” is more than the title of a grant.
But, it was indeed a grant title. LEF was able to fund that grant thanks to the generosity of CoServ and the CoServ Charitable Foundation, who partner with LEF each year as sponsors of events like Evening for Education and through grant and scholarship programs.
“It’s been such an amazing year,” Vickery STEM/Science Discovery Teacher Diane Skorusa said. “The new STEM supplies and equipment had such a BIG impact on the learning of all my students.” Skorusa works with all 560 Vickery students, from kindergarten students who are just beginning their life as a Voyager, to fifth grade learners who are getting ready to wrap up their primary school years and venture to middle school.
“As they come through my door, they always ask, ‘What are we doing today?’ When I tell them we’re going to be Jr. Engineers and create a skyscraper, or build a bridge, or plan a city of the future, or design a solar house, or imagine their future homes, they start cheering with excitement!”
Skorusa used the funds awarded to purchase a variety of different STEM kits to accommodate all grade levels. For the youngest students she purchased K’nex Transportation Vehicles. Learners in the middle grades were excited to find ZOOB car designers and ZOOB STEM Challenge kits. And the upper grades were able to utilize Young Architects, Polydron Engineers, K’Nex Alternative Energy kits, Solar House Design and Solar Car kits.
“In the upper grades,” Skorusa said, “The focus was on thinking about energy needs of the future. How can we create cars and buildings that use less fossil fuels and more renewable energy? Our students are our future inventors and engineers. We need young people that can imagine new ways of building that haven’t even been thought of yet. My goal is to open their minds so they will imagine new ideas, think deeply and be creative problem solvers.”
As the school year came to an end, Skorusa looked to evaluate the efficacy of the “Full STEAM Ahead” project. “The success of this project isn’t measured in a test score because STAAR doesn’t measure creativity, teamwork, imagination or building abilities,” Skorusa said. “My students learned to be thoughtful collaborators, expert communicators, imaginative problem solvers and critical thinkers. These are 21st century skills that are preparing them for their future endeavors.”
And, that happened without regard to language. “My English Language Learners were totally engaged while building skyscrapers and cable cars and no words were needed,” Skorusa said. “My kindergarten students drew design plans for helicopters, tow trucks and fire trucks. They were able to communicate what equipment was needed.”
Skorusa also found that non-traditional learners thrive when given this opportunity. “My ADHD and autistic students were so totally focused on completing STEM challenges for the entire 50 minutes, it was unbelievable. My SPEd students had giant smiles as they successfully built skyscrapers and understood why it’s important to begin with a strong foundation so a stable tower can withstand high winds.” Skorusa used a fan to simulate high winds, and students were able to see the whether their design could withstand the challenge.
Skorusa also noted that students of all ages who struggle in reading and writing were successful in her class. “They thought outside the box,” Skorusa said. “They think in 3-D and were able to create amazing structures. My artistic students, who sometimes struggle with book learning drew amazing designs and many became leaders of the projects.”
And students who typically excel, had success using these tools as well. “MY Gifted and Talented students were excellent communicators and took critical thinking to a deeper level,” Skorusa explained.
“Seeing my students from various backgrounds with different skill sets come together to collaborate on STEM projects, share ideas, use critical thinking and creativity, demonstrate teamwork and communicate how they implemented the Engineering Design Process was all I needed to measure the success of this project,” Skorusa said. “Their joy and excitement while being fully engaged is how I measured success.”
Skorusa and her students are very appreciative of the resources that provided these great opportunities. They shared one final thought. “Your grant made this incredible year possible. Thank you again!”