How can school districts be effective with limited financial resources? Schools in Madison County are challenged every day by growing student needs and shrinking budgets.
Recently, Collinsville Community Unit School District #10 learned we were named an “exemplar for public schools in Illinois” by IFF – a nonprofit community development financial institution.
We are one of three school districts called a “Bright Spot for Future Investment” profiled in IFF’s study: Raising Quality, Promoting Equity” An Analysis of Location, Performance and Investment in Illinois Public Schools.” The other districts are Elgin-Area School District U-46 and Vienna School District 55.
The study evaluated the effectiveness of district resource allocation. The three districts were highlighted for “cost effectively meeting the needs of their students, reaching them with effective academic preparation even in the face of funding gaps.”
One of the areas in which we have had great success is leveraging existing resources in creative ways. An example is the First Annual STEM Day at held at Collinsville High School in September for all district 3rd graders.
CUSD 10 Third Grade STEM Day
The event was the brainchild of the CUSD 10 Science Vertical Team. The Science Vertical Team is comprised of science teachers representing all grade levels in the district. STEM Day was a result of their collaborative work to bridge science curriculum between age groups.
Science staff who helped orchestrate STEM Day were Jamie Barger (Collinsville Middle School) , Krista Basuel (Kreitner Elementary), Susanna Benson (Webster Elementary), Jill Carter (Collinsville Middle School), Tom Withee (Collinsville High School), Pat Szpila (Collinsville High School), Stephanie Schweppe (Collinsville High School), Chris Comrie (Dorris Intermediate School), Matt Blunt (Collinsville Middle School), Jason Watts (Dorris Intermediate School) and Sean Hay (Collinsville High School).
The idea was to bring together all 3rd grade students for shared Science, Engineering, Technology and Math experiences. The various stations and experiments were staffed by members of the Collinsville High School STEM club under the supervision of the STEM Day committee teachers.
CHS STEM students were challenged to create interactive experiences for the younger students and served as mentors at each of the stations walking the 3rd graders through the lessons and experiments. Third grade classes attended either the morning or afternoon two-hour session.
Third graders were greeted by a CHS student guide who escorted them through various STEM stations. Most stations involved hands-on experimentation. Stations included: Pinewood Derby Challenge, Laser Maze, Treehouse Wildlife Center, Water Rocket Launch, Willoughby Farms Energy Bike, Design Boat Challenge, Robot Ramble, Adaptation Station, Wind Turbine Challenge, What Would Worms Do?, Solar Car Race, and Classifications.
There were exhibits about optical illusions, a 3D-Printer, a decoding challenge, a Van De Graff generator and Cartesian Divers.
Third graders also got to see real-life science in action as they toured the Collinsville Area Vocational Center at CHS. They learned about the concepts behind automobiles, electricity, robotics, welding, building trades and precision machining.
McKendree University Sigma Zeta Science Honor Society provided microscopes and STEM college students to help the 3rd graders learn how to use them.
Feedback from the students was immediate and very positive. The 3rd graders were engaged throughout the sessions. The high school students took their responsibilities very seriously and provided meaningful, informative interactions for the younger students.
Jill Carter, 8th grade science teacher and Collinsville Middle School Science Department Chair, summarized the event: “STEM Day was a great opportunity for our district’s 3rd graders to spend the morning or afternoon immersed in science. We are happy to see this day peaked students’ interest and served as a “hook” to get them ready to learn science this school year!”
“Our goal was not only to educate, excite and engage the 3rd graders, but their teachers as well. As a team we are working to promote the importance our district’s science curriculum as a whole and to be sure the teachers of the little ones know the importance of their part in in the education of our future scientists,” said Carter.
Krista Basuel, a 3rd grader teacher at Kreitner Elementary agreed, “I thought the 3rd Grade STEM Day was a huge success! It was worth all the hard work and preparation to see the look of wonderment and excitement in the students’ faces. I had so many students tell me how much they LOVE Science, and they had never realized it before!”
“The event was paced perfectly for their attention spans and also provided a well-rounded experience into Science, Technology, and Engineering. The stations were so diverse that the students never lost interest in what was being taught to them. I hope this event can be an annual event for all 3rd graders!”
Cost Effective Innovation
Third Grade STEM Day is an example of CUSD 10 cost effectively using resources for a positive outcome. Five hundred 3rd graders were engaged in STEM education, staff collaborated vertically on science curriculum, 3rd grade teachers were inspired to integrate concepts into their lessons and high school students gained leadership experience while sharing their STEM knowledge – all for a minimal cost.