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Sandy Journal

Grace Lutheran incorporates STEM education into liberal arts Christian curriculum

Feb 07, 2022 02:29PM ● By Julie Slama

Grace Lutheran students learn engineering principles as STEM is incorporated into the curriculum. (Randi Frausto/Grace Lutheran School)

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

On Nov. 8, the U.S. celebrated National STEM Day, a chance to introduce science, technology, engineering and math to students. 

With a STEM education, students may be learning about NASA’s Artemis program that plans to put people back on the moon by 2024 or learning about how an antibiotic paste is used to treat stony coral tissue loss disease. Or for younger students, maybe there’s an opportunity to visit a nearby science center.

The 90 students at Grace Lutheran School didn’t have to travel far at all to experience a STEM opportunity. 

From testing different methods of folding paper airplanes and learning to collect data to analyzing to building robots and coding them, Grace Lutheran offers students a variety of STEM opportunities weekly to enhance their liberal arts Christian curriculum.

“We will always include in our curriculum the core subjects, but also art, music, Spanish, PE/health and technology,” said Principal Shelly Davis. “About three years ago, we decided to start incorporating STEM into our curriculum and then, we had a donation to transform one of our spaces into a STEM lab, and with that, we’re developing our program.”

While that process was slowed a little because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the lab features movable tables and stools to allow students to design and create. The lab also has a 3D printer where older students have teamed up with younger students to create bubble wands and middle school students have created pumpkin candy dispensers, said STEM teacher Mack Beyersdorf, who teaches STEM curriculum to students once to three times per week.

“The lab is available for students to create and design, but we also want students to work together to solve problems, such as with the robots,” she said. “My hope is that they first learn how to put the robots together, then they will code them to solve a problem.”

But STEM learning isn’t just limited to class periods in that lab. Davis said she has challenged each teacher each week in every class to incorporate STEM into their curriculum.

For example, she said, in sixth-grade social studies curriculum, students learn about world history so with Roman Greco building blocks, they were able to study architecture designs of that period as they build with them. 

“It’s more than just the technology part; it’s the designing and engineering,” Davis said.

Seventh- and eighth-grade teacher Randi Frausto said that her students already have had some hands-on activities learning about electronics.

“They learned how current works, then with various equipment—transistors, diodes, computer monitors, plasma and picture node TVs—they researched about them to recycle parts to create a new project, from trash to treasure,” she said. “Every year, we start the year off with fun and interesting hands-on learning that tie into electricity, then we bring in the environment and what we can do with our old devices so we’re not putting more products into the landfill, but instead, reusing parts.”

Davis said ultimately, she’d like to offer a free STEM camp to the community. While the timeline may depend on the pandemic, as well as funding, she hopes it may be offered as early as this summer.