CANFIELD, Ohio (WKBN) – There is an entire kindergarten classroom just for STEM at Hilltop Elementary School in Canfield. For the pint-sized learners, the activities might feel more like play time, but they are learning important lessons and do not even realize it.
It looks and sounds just like any other classroom, but everything in this class is about science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).
For example, kid-friendly construction is a daily activity at Hilltop, in which children learn basic math and engineering in the process.
“They’re trying out how to put the pieces together how to make it look like a house. Most importantly, they’re learning how to work together in groups,” said teacher Lisa Zetts.
A sandbox in the STEM classroom is a big draw for children, but what they do not realize is when they are playing in it, they are actually doing math — measuring sand in and out of the box.
“With the sandbox, they learn mathematical concepts — full, empty, big, small. How much does it take to fill up a tube, or, how much does it take to fill up a container?” Zetts said.
This is the first year that the school has a kindergarten classroom completely dedicated to STEM. Struthers Elementary School also teaches STEM in its kindergarten classes, as well as every other grade.
“I think there’s such a big emphasis now, because there are a lot of the jobs of engineering and the technology field. They really want to get kids a head start on it,” said Dom Lariccia, STEM teacher at the school.
In Struthers’ STEM program, every middle school student goes through a nine-week course. Lariccia said having things like 3D printers in the class keep students interested and always wanting to learn more.
Struthers City Schools Superintendent Joe Nohra said decisions were made on which engineering courses would be offered in the district based on the manufacturing needs in the Valley. He said 3D printing, he said, is a growing industry.
“Our students are submerged in that, and really, where it’s going to put them is put them in line for what they want to do — post-secondary or to go right into the job market, and we have to have a sustained job market, and we have to be able to provide those jobs,” he said.
It is no surprise teachers are instilling the importance of STEM early to their students. Dr. Kerry Meyers, director of the first-year engineering program at the Youngstown State University’s College of STEM, said STEM jobs are in high demand, with many career opportunities in the field.