Pelham Ridge and Pelham Oaks Elementary celebrate STEAM program

Published 8:58 am Thursday, October 14, 2021

By MICHELLE LOVE | Staff Writer

PELHAM ­ – The students of Pelham Ridge Elementary had several special guests on the afternoon of Wednesday, Oct. 13. The students were able to meet the fund donors of their school’s STEM and STEAM programs.

Present at the event were Alabama Representatives Arnold Mooney, April Weaver and Kenneth Paschal. Also present were Pelham Oaks Elementary Principal Chase Holden and the Pelham Oaks STEAM instructor Mary Beth Brennan.

Pelham Ridge Principal Lisa Baxter explained to the students how the funds donated were used to buy their STEM lab’s tables, chairs and equipment to further their educational experience.

“This is not something we just went out and got,” Representative Mooney told the class. “We have a blessed opportunity to share these grants where needs are in our schools. These are tax dollars that their parents have paid the state of Alabama to come back in through the education trust fund.”

STEM stands for “Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics,” while STEAM stands for “Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics.” Both programs are interactive programs that allow students more creative and engaging ways to learn.

“The overall in the lab is we are trying to promote them to become problem solvers,” said Pelham Ridge STEM instructor Stacy Brown. “They’re either presented with some sort of essential question or design challenge, and then they have to come up with ways to come up with answers and solutions themselves. It’s very student-centered.”

On this particular day, the students were experimenting with how force relates to distance by blowing paper bat kites with a straw. All of the students were taking part in the activity, and all of them seemed to thoroughly enjoy what they were learning.

According to Baxter, Pelham Ridge has around 800 students ranging from 3k to 5th grade. The students come to the STEM lab once a week, and Baxter said all of the students openly express how much they love their time in the lab.

“They’ve taken it all the way from kindergarten all the way to fifth grade and given them different ways to challenge the kids,” Baxter said. “Of course, it gets more difficult the older they get. We definitely have future leaders in this classroom.”

Brennan said she has definitely noticed a difference in how students respond to the STEAM program at Pelham Oaks.

“For me, I’ve noticed even some students who might have trouble in a regular academic setting are really extra engaged because it’s hands-on, and they get to come up with their solutions themselves. It’s an easy topic to get them excited about,” she said.

Representative Kenneth Paschal presented checks to both STEM instructors for the purpose of continuing the growth of their individual programs.

For Mooney, being able to help fund the programs hit close to home.

“I have 10 grandchildren, so seeing these kids just makes me think about them,” he said. “These are funds that come from taxes paid to the state that come through the education trust fund, and give us the opportunity that meet specific needs in the school system. It’s a joy to get to see these kids get the chance to creatively learn to solve problems, and to begin to think and dissect things themselves.”