With the fast pace and the evolving needs of life and our environment, it has become imperative to equip students with skills beyond traditional academic knowledge. From a Global Problem-Solving class redefining STEM education to a barrier-breaking robotics team, these Coastal Bend successes in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math highlight the concept’s importance.
Empowering Tomorrow’s Innovators
Windsor Park Elementary provides grades 3-5 with Global Problem-Solving, an International Baccalaureate (IB) enrichment class, which is revolutionizing STEM education in the community.
Taught by Rachel Beavers, one of its key aspects is fostering metacognition and teaching students to utilize different thinking approaches based on the situation at hand. Beavers employs innovative teaching methods to engage and inspire students by emphasizing real-world applications and encouraging students to tackle global challenges. The STEM education is not limited to theoretical concepts, but extends to practical projects, such as incorporating hands-on activities like Lego challenges, where students build bridges and explore the history of human migration. By studying innovative bridge designs and their influence on humans and animals, students gain a deeper understanding of the importance of problem-solving and creativity in engineering.
“I’m teaching kids to see beyond what they think their limitations might be and see that they can take what they know to help others,” Beavers said. “The IB program teaches them to be great thinkers and problem solvers, and that’s what we need. When you and I can no longer take care of ourselves, we want the next generation to step up, make changes, fix the problems and develop innovative solutions.”
What sets the Global Problem-Solving class apart is its emphasis on student agency, voice and choice — encouraging students to take ownership of their learning and choose how they want to approach and present their knowledge. This approach fosters independence, critical thinking and problem-solving skills essential for success in the modern world.
A Teacher’s Journey Ignites STEM Inspiration
At West Oso Middle School’s Citgo Innovation STEM Academy, groundbreaking contributions to STEM education are taking place. Under the inspiring leadership of teacher Christina Campos, West Oso is revolutionizing STEM learning, providing its students with unparalleled opportunities.
Campos’ commitment to her students earned her the distinction of being the sole teacher from the region accepted into the prestigious LiftOff Summer Institute, a nationally competitive program sponsored by NASA’s Texas Space Grant Consortium and the University of Texas Center for Space Research.
Her acceptance into the program represented a dream come true, granting her the privilege of working side by side with esteemed scientists and astronauts at NASA through project-based learning. Campos emphasized that for her, participation in the program meant building lasting partnerships and forging connections that will benefit her students. She envisions using these newfound contacts to foster collaborative research projects, secure grants for enriching educational excursions and offer her students invaluable experiences.
Campos returned with inspiration and materials not only to be used in her own classroom, but to share with other educators. By providing innovative learning opportunities, fostering partnerships and igniting a passion for STEM subjects, she passionately prepares students for a future where scientific and technological literacy is increasingly vital. Her participation in NASA’s LiftOff Summer Institute is just one example of the academy’s commitment to excellence and dedication to helping students reach their full potential.
Creative Learning Systems at the St. James Frazier STREAM Innovation Center
Made possible by the generous grant from the Frazier Family Foundation, Inc., the St. James Frazier STREAM Innovation Center brings a trailblazing innovation lab to life, offering students a hands-on, active learning experience in Science, Technology, Religion, Engineering, the Arts and Mathematics (STREAM).
Boasting a comprehensive K-8 curriculum, the center covers study areas from Alternative and Renewable Energy to Robotics and Control Technology. The incorporation of the Frazier Broadcasting Studio adds another dimension with media production capabilities, allowing students to harness creativity while developing essential communication skills.
Students are free to explore, experiment and modify projects as they see fit. This hands-on approach instills invaluable resilience, adaptability and critical thinking skills. The Center encourages students to embrace failures as learning opportunities, ensuring that even setbacks contribute to their development. The collaborative nature of the program is also a highlight, as students from different grade levels work together and share their discoveries.
As STREAM Lab Facilitator Leigh Marsh stated, “There truly is no other lab quite like this in South Texas.” The center’s philosophy of creative learning and the achievements of its students testify to the power of innovation in education and the endless possibilities it offers. “The philosophy of creative learning systems allows [students] to take ownership; it’s all their own idea,” Marsh continued.
Seamlessly integrated into the library, the lab provides a dynamic environment for students to exercise creativity and equips them with essential digital literacy skills, ensuring students can navigate the online landscape in a world increasingly reliant on digital platforms. The center’s signature blend of hands-on learning, collaboration and digital fluency prepares students to become future problem-solvers and critical thinkers.
Moody’s Robotics Team Leads the Way
Moody High School proudly hosts the pioneering Citgo Innovation Academy, inspiring similar programs nationwide. With the utilization of the Project Lead The Way STEM curriculum, the academy guides students through an immersive, comprehensive, engineering-focused experience.
One of the program’s highlights is the Robotics Club. Teams compete in two prestigious events: the FIRST Tech Challenge through FIRST Robotics and the VEX Robotics competition. Students are responsible for designing, building and testing robots to complete specific challenges. The competitions test their technical skills and require them to excel in interviews and presentations. However, building a competitive robot can be an expensive endeavor. To alleviate this financial burden, the Robotics Team was fortunate to receive three grants totaling $6,000 from AEP, enabling students to rebuild and upgrade existing robots this year. By removing financial barriers, the grants empower students to fully engage in the experience.
“Winning trophies in robotics competitions is fun, but it won’t change the lives of kids growing up in poverty-stricken neighborhoods,” emphasized Randall Stuart, lead robotics coach and Project Lead The Way teacher for the Citgo Innovation Academy. “However, by going through this engineering robotics program and eventually attending college, these students break the cycle of poverty into which they were born. That’s true success.”
Through hands-on learning experiences, financial support and a firm commitment to championing STEM education, the team plays a pivotal role in shaping the future of our community. The Robotics Club’s unwavering dedication to excellence and relentless pursuit of breaking barriers propel our community toward a future brimming with opportunity.