Woodland instructor Hannah Cox’s students are learning about things they don’t necessarily get to see in an everyday math or chemistry classroom.
Since the beginning of the school year, students have worked with greenhouses, wind energy, model rockets, model towers and skyscrapers, among other items.
With the help of the community, Woodland Unit 5 has become the first kindergarten through 12th-grade district in Livingston County to offer STEM curriculum (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math).
Cox teaches the high school STEM class, which currently has 11 students in it who must meet math and science requirements to qualify for the class.
“We’ve done a lot,” Cox said. “Right now we’re in the middle of energy consumption based project, talking about solar power with wind . … They actually get a lot of free reign and they get a lot of hands-on. They get the benefit from using their own thought processes and learning about using what you have to make something greater. It’s very interesting to see how things turn out. They all work really well together.”
The Greater Livingston County Economic Development Council contributed $31,000 for the initial purchase of classroom equipment, and Country Financial and SOCU have contributed financial support as well.
“The economic development council has worked with three school districts for STEM funding,” said Adam Dontz, of the council. “The funding requires three components: professional development, curriculum development and purchase of equipment for STEM training. Woodland has put together a program to do just that.
“We were the initial contributor to help Woodland kick off,” Dontz continued. “From our initial contributions, not only has Woodland gotten help from SOCU and Country Financial … stemming from what we’ve began, it has really turned into other community members helping as financiers and guest speakers. Our funding wasn’t meant to be ongoing. (It was) provided to accelerate implementation of STEM program at Woodland.”
The lessons high school students learn in their classroom trickle down to the rest of the district’s 550 students as well. The high school students go into elementary classrooms to pass on some of the concepts they have learned, and math and science teachers incorporate some STEM concepts into their curriculum for junior high students.
Another component of the program is that people in the community with STEM-related jobs will come to Cox’s class on a regular basis to talk about what they’re doing.
Cox is excited about Rover robots that Country Financial will fund, which will allow the robots to perform tasks through commands from a calculator.
“When Hannah came to me, it inspired me,” said Country Financial Agent and Woodland alumnus Kevin Derossett. “I remember when computers were first coming out and we thought the flashing green light on the screen was cool. It’s a great opportunity for my company to give back and as an alumnus of Woodland, this is where my heart is.”
Money contributed by SOCU is being used for consumable supplies for the curriculum.
“With our presence in Streator, Dwight and Livingston County, we are thrilled to give back to the community,” said Lori Christopherson, of SOCU
The district has contributed $10,000 and teamed with Texas Instruments to purchase items from the Inspire series such as probes and thermometers that are used on a daily basis.
“Over the next few years the school will have a trainer come once every other month that shows teachers not only how to use the equipment but also expand the equipment use,” said Superintendent Ryan McGuckin. “Really, we could do none of this without the contributions of the community and Livingston County.”