New teachers expanding STEM programs

New teachers, innovations expanding STEM programs
Posted on 10/21/2021
(SPS) -- To say Brandi Bryan and Ken Cole are enthusiastic would be an understatement.

The pair are the newest STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) teachers at Sapulpa Public Schools.

Ken Cole is taking over the High School STEM program. Mr. Cole, a former zookeeper, is new to Sapulpa but has been teaching for 17 years.

Ms. Bryan taught math at Sapulpa Middle School, but was recently appointed the Middle School STEM instructor after making a difference for her students through innovative teaching methods.

MIDDLE SCHOOL STEM

From venturing outside to learn how the weather impacts flight to building gliders of their own, Brandi Bryan's STEM class is anything but ordinary.

In fact, she goes out of her way to ensure a memorable STEM experience for her 6th and 7th grade students.

"As the math teacher, I had flexible seating, we did labs, we went outside and played games," said Ms. Bryan, who plans to bring all of that and more to her STEM classroom.

"The great thing I absolutely love about STEM is you're teaching the kids and they don't even know it," she said.

Megan Cannon, Sapulpa Public Schools STEM Coordinator, says STEM is full of passion, exploring and curiosity -- all qualities Ms. Bryan embraces. She was the natural choice to be Sapulpa Middle School's next STEM instructor.

"Brandi is really excited about getting the kids excited about science and math and taking what they've learned in the classroom and applying it to real-world situations," said Cannon. "That is really the goal of STEM education: getting kids to take their excitement outside the walls of the school."

In addition to gliders, Ms. Bryan and the students will build a planetarium, explore space and design rockets, and delve into programming and robotics. They'll also examine ways to help solve community issues through STEM.

"Just because you're ten, 11 or 12, doesn't mean you can't help everyone in the world," said Ms. Bryan. "You might not be able to physically get there, but your ideas are brilliant and amazing. And you can help so many people -- just from your classroom."

Cannon says Sapulpa Public Schools' growing STEM program is a foundation for the future.

"We're here to support our students, we're here to get them passionate about helping the world around them and looking outside their own lives and saying 'what can I do to help?'" said Cannon.



HIGH SCHOOL STEM

Mr. Cole started the 2021-22 school year with a lesson in engineering. The class is designing and building bridges. They will later test their bridge designs for stability by simulating natural disasters and emergency situations.

"We start out with bridges because a lot of that design is all about building a foundation," said Mr. Cole. "Part of what they are doing is laying the foundation for everything that's going to come next."

Over the course of the year, the class will also build and race dragsters and design airplanes and gliders. Mr. Cole plans to start a robotics program and compete with other schools.

"Whether it's through grants or fundraising, we're going to do whatever it takes to make sure this is a flagship program and a top-notch facility," said Mr. Cole.

He says a core element of STEM education is making sure students know the value of learning through failure.

"STEM is about 'hey, we have these ideas, we've been presented with this problem, let's try to come up with a solution that fits, and then let's test it out,'" said Cannon. "And a lot of times, that solution doesn't work, and STEM is about getting kids to look at their failure as progress, rather than something that's negative."

STEM helps students build a path for the future: 80% of the job market is science, technology, engineering or math.

"This generation of students is going to be the next workers in the STEM field and that could be right here in town," said Cannon. "We are preparing our students, whether that's for college, or career, or tech. Whatever those steps are after high school, we're going to start preparing them in elementary school, then they can be on a STEM pathway from 6th all the way through 12th grade."

For Mr. Cole, interactive projects and getting students excited about learning are the keys to STEM success.

"Find something they like to do that they might not otherwise be exposed to, then get out of their way," said Mr. Cole. "If I'm not having fun, I know the kids aren't having fun."

And, for Cannon, Mr. Cole and Ms. Bryan are fantastic additions whose innovative ideas will help ignite young minds and strengthen Sapulpa's STEM programs.

"For Sapulpa Public Schools, if we can get kids just as curious when they graduate as when we got them in PreK or Kindergarten, then we've truly done our job," said Cannon.

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