September 2019
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STEM Skills at Work at HMS

Huston Middle School science teacher Shaun Reddick is teaching a new class this year – one that will challenge students to search for answers without relying on Google.

Creative Design I is an engineering class that’s being offered as an elective for sixth- and eighth-graders. Reddick says the course is important at a time when so much information is at our fingertips.

“We’ve always taught information, but that’s all readily available with Google,” he says. “Problem solving is something that’s needed in every career. You’re going to be required to solve problems.”  In one assignment, students were given materials and told to build a coin sorter – but it was left to them to figure out how.  “Those were the only instructions they were given,” Reddick says. “The goal was to get them to work through the engineering process.”

Reddick and Principal Brian Ferra say the course is designed to build on the STEM curriculum at Stewart Elementary. STEM is an acronym for Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics, and it’s viewed as a key educational foundation for a workforce that must compete in a global marketplace.  “We’re carrying forward the STEM focus from Stewart – solving problems, collaboration, critical thinking, experimental design,” Ferra says. “It’s the difference between the process of science vs. knowing content.”

Ferra and Reddick say the new course was inspired by visits to local companies that allowed small groups of students to get a firsthand look at operations. One of the trips was to TMG Electronics, an electronics manufacturer in Cheswick. There, Reddick says, it was the students who did the teaching.  “We took a small group of students there, and we showed (the company) the value of iPads and streamlining the manufacturing process,” Reddick says. “The kids got a standing ovation.”  He and Ferra decided that all of their students should have an opportunity for that kind of hands-on learning experience.  “These kids that went to TMG figured out something in the very short time that they were with the company, instead of the company paying engineers to do it,” Ferra says. “That was the impetus for the Creative Design class.”

Reddick, who’s in his 24th year at Huston Middle School, says the students are enjoying the class as much as he is.  “The idea is that the students are going to do a lot more problem solving and engineering activities,” Reddick says. “The group I have now is very excited. All the kids are engaged. They seem to really like it.”

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