The evening included a musical performance by fifth-grade students and was followed by four series of sessions, where parents were allowed to pick from almost 20 different hands-on activities throughout the Acworth school.
“Awesome events like this allow our students to demonstrate their accomplishments throughout the year and reflects our student learning goals,” Principal Dr. Jennifer Scrivner said.
Similar to the fall expos held at all six Cherokee Academies, the Clark Creek event was an opportunity for prospective parents and the community as a whole to learn about the Academies initiative.
Clark Creek, Canton, Ball Ground and Holly Springs elementary schools serve as Cherokee County School District’s four STEM Academies, while Hasty and Oak Grove are home to the district’s Fine Arts Academies.
Assistant Superintendent Letitia Cline said the expos allow each school to have their own creative take on showing what students are doing in the classroom.
“A lot of schools use students to run the stations as opposed to teachers,” she said. “It really opens the doors to (the community) to allow them to see what’s going on a daily basis.”
In Clark Creek’s gymnasium, members of the school’s award-winning Robohawks robotics team demonstrated how they programmed Lego robots to complete tasks.
Teresa Bailey, STEM Lab coordinator and robotics team advisor, said this year’s theme centered on helping seniors.
“It’s about automating robots to make real-life problems better,” Bailey said.
Fifth-grader Charlie Meyer demonstrated how he and his classmates programmed a robot to travel across a table and drop a small ball to knock over miniature bowling pins.
“We’ve had it get up to a whole strike sometimes,” he said.
Bailey said the 20-member team of fourth- and fifth-grade students officially meets once a week for three hours—but most ask to come by her classroom more often to work on their projects. She said over 100 students tried out for the team and hopes to allow more students to participate next year.
“I held a meeting last week with the other STEM schools to talk with them about starting their own program,” Bailey said.
Other sessions held throughout the school included a mobile star lab planetarium in the media center and ActivTable demonstration in the school’s math lab.
The STEM and math labs are part of the school’s special rotations, which also include art, physical education and music.
Assistant Principal Deborah Kelly said the focus of these labs, as well as incorporating STEM concepts into the overall curriculum, is to promote critical thinking and foster communication in students.
“The labs are a departure from traditional classrooms in that they encourage communication and working together,” Kelly said.
Math lab teacher Ashley Murphy allowed her students to show their parents and other community members how they use the ActivTable, an interactive computer table. Students played a game where they were required to place animals in their correct habitat to score points.
She also demonstrated how they used Zometools, an educational toy that includes connector balls and struts that can be connected to create geometric shapes.
“My students ask me how this is math and I tell them it’s about learning geometry—how to make a cube bigger or smaller,” Murphy said. “It’s a lot more visual for them.”
Steve Breazeale of Acworth, who has sons in kindergarten and second grade, said he was amazed by some of the things his children were working on and said he appreciated the school’s forward-looking staff.
“I didn’t have access to some of these things even in high school,” he said. “Learning math and science is fundamental and allowing them to do all of the work they’re doing with iPads really seems to get the kids engaged.”
Bonnie Fleming, a fourth-grade teacher, demonstrated how her class has been working with over 40 free iPad applications to study a variety of subjects on their individual iPads.
“We’ve discovered apps that run from learning states and capitals to learning the timeline of the American Revolution,” Fleming said. “It’s so much more in depth than just watching a video.”
Fleming said incorporating technology each day has essentially changed the way she teaches. In the couple of months since her classroom has been given the iPads to pilot, she’s been able to research valuable education applications for her students to use.
“Technology is the new world and we all have to adjust,” Fleming said. “It’s part of who (the students) are and who they are going to be in the future.”
Robyn Mattson, a teacher at Etowah High School, doesn’t have any children attending Clark Creek but hopes to enroll her 3-year-old daughter in a couple of years.
“I really wanted to come here tonight to expose her to math and science,” she said. “And now she doesn’t want to go home.”
Mattson said she believes it is important to expose more young women to scientific career opportunities.
“My daughter already loves all the hands-on activities. I want her to be able to hopefully be on the forefront of science education in this country,” she said.