Getting a Headstart: Northwest Elementary Students Build in STEM Lab

By: Ben Brown

The Jenks Northwest STEM lab is bustling with activity. In every corner of the room you can find discoveries being made and light bulbs going off in student’s heads. In one corner, there are students building interactive guitars from cardboard, coins, and circuits. At the opposite end of the room there are two students playing a video game that they coded themselves. 

The STEM lab was made possible through bond money, local donors, and Creative Learning Systems (the company that built the STEM lab). Students from second, third, and fourth grade get 28 consecutive days in the STEM lab every year, and Pre-K-1st grade get time for special projects. They spend those 28 days learning circuitry, computer graphics, software engineering, and many more skills based around STEM. 

The lab is in its third year, and it’s doing wonders for the students of Northwest that couldn’t have been predicted. 

“The depth of their learning exceeds my expectations,” says facilitator of the STEM lab Mrs. Teal, “these girls learned about circuitry, made a piano, and now a guitar.” 

The students I got to see in the lab were fourth graders from various classes taking advantage of the open lab time. 

“This is the coolest thing I’ve done. Ever,” says fourth grader Ellie Bilby while building a guitar, “I’ve always wanted to play guitar, and this is a good opportunity.” 

Mrs. Teal is always pushing her kids to work harder and gain as much as they can from their work. When a student asks if he can just be told how the computers work, she tells him to figure it out for himself. That is the kind of learning that is pushed in the lab. 

The students are never satisfied with just finishing their project and being done. Fourth graders Ellie Bilby and Gentry Fiker learned to build a piano using circuits and a computer program, but they didn’t stop there. They went on to build a cardboard guitar using the same system, and now they’re talking to Mrs. Teal about making a drum set!

The STEM lab at Jenks Northwest is a hub of hands on activity, and the teachers can’t believe how much students are learning everyday. 

Mrs. Teal also offers after school STEM classes summer STEM camps through Community Ed. 

“The STEM lab is a place where every kid can come and feel successful,” says Mrs. Teal.

Fourth grader Ellie Bilby builds a guitar in the STEM lab. She uses quarters connected to a circuit which connects to a computer program to make notes on the guitar. 
Guy Montgomery builds a tower. In this project, each piece is supposed to cost a certain amount of money and you have to make a tower on a budget.


Fourth graders Khup Elalego and Luan Kim with their lego helicopter and IPad used to code it. 
Fourth graders Khup Elalego and Luan Kim code a lego helicopter to move in different ways using an IPad.
Kade Clark and Aiden Rudigei play a video game that they coded themselves. 

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