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Weather Lab: Anchorage School District promotes STEM learning

By Melissa Frey Photojournalist: Beth Peak - 5:02 PM May 9, 2017

The Anchorage School District is offering new opportunities for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) learning.

They say STEM education helps students become more informed and thoughtful in all areas of life, but also increases their ability to gain employment later on.

To promote STEM learning, the district is now supplying teachers with science kits to incorporate hands on learning opportunities into their lessons. They’re also given access to business partners who use science in the real world.

Science kits are not new to the district, but what’s inside them is.

“It’s really important that our students are getting opportunities for hands on learning, to be asking questions, to be designing experiments, to be collecting data, evaluating data, making conclusions based on evidence, so really doing the science as a way of learning the science,” said Jennifer Witter, Anchorage School District STEM curriculum coordinator.

The curriculum is designed by ASD STEM teacher experts and are assembled by a three person team in a 4,500 foot warehouse at the Science Materials Center in Anchorage.

It’s a full-time, year round, effort to keep the kits supplied. This summer they’re finishing the curriculum and materials to teach science to over 25,000 students this fall.

“The more detail we can put into a kit and have it really organized the better it makes the kit and learning experience for students,” said Kate Robertson-Bartel, administrative assistant for the ASD Science Materials Center.

Over 1,000 teachers in Anchorage are given a new kit each semester. It’s a method of learning the kids get excited for.

“It’s fun to get a little dirty, it’s fun to ask questions and to be surprised by what you see,” said Witter.

As these students learn about everything from Alaskan animals to clouds, research shows their STEM lessons also prepare them for the world beyond the classroom.

“STEM is important because we’re trying to educate students for success in life and one way they can be successful is to have critical thinking, problem solving skills and STEM is a great way to provide that base for them,” said Witter.

Starting next year, Anchorage elementary students will also have the opportunity to attend the district’s first STEM elementary school.

Campbell Elementary is becoming a school-wide alternative program with a stem focus. They’ll feature a STEM curriculum and will intentionally include science, technology, engineering and math in every subject.

The program will be open to both children in the neighborhood and through ASD’s lottery.

KTVA was proud to be business partner to help promote STEM learning about meteorology. Click on the links below to see our KTVA Weather Lab stories that aired this school year.

KTVA’s Meteorologist Melissa Frey can be reached via email or on Facebook and Twitter

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