BRIDGMAN — The first day of school at F. C. Reed Middle School had the added excitement of the opening of the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) Lab, a $330,000 focal point for staff, parents and the community, not to mention students.

The STEM Lab will be an integral part of each student’s school year with the goal of developing 21st Century skills needed to be successful and competitive in the modern economy.  Students will work collaboratively to integrate STEM principles in a project-based curriculum dubbed SmartLab Integrated Learning System.

According to Principal John Truesdell, projects in the STEM Lab are designed to utilize an expansive library of curriculum that engages students while fostering creativity, innovation, teamwork and a love for learning.

The Lab is equipped with collaborative workstations, state-of-the-art computers, a 3D printer, numerous manipulative learning kits and a full video production studio. These resources will be used during the 10-day STEM course as part of the STEM, art and physical education elective rotation. Students will select projects, conduct research, problem solve and present their finished product at the end of the 10-day course.

The almost 2,500-square-foot Lab includes an open center space for 30 learner stations grouped into five learning islands are assigned to the following study areas: Science Probeware Exploration, Alternative Energy Studies, Pneumatic Circuitry, Electric Circuitry and Stop Motion Animation.

Each island is assigned with specific software programs and tools. For example, the Scientific Probeware Exploration island has access to bit mapped graphics, advanced modeling/physical simulation, laser exploration and computer control. The Alternative Energy Studies island has desktop publishing, robotics, video post-production and web site animation. The Pneumatic Circuitry island is equipped with graphic design-vector based graphics, civil engineering, business and entrepreneurship, 3D landscaping and 3D design. Also, the Electric Circuitry island is equipped with spreadsheets and databases, colossal structuring, mathematical modeling, microelectronic exploration and software engineering. The Stop Motion Animation island has web site design, sound engineering, video post-production, 3D modeling/animation and MIDI exploration.

The STEM Lab also accommodates a 30-seat group learning zone facing an 80-inch monitor and a facilitator zone. The video production studio includes a two-console broadcast desk, multiple cameras, a confidence monitor for prompts and scripts and appropriate lighting and backdrops for taping.  

Mrs. Kerri DeBest, STEM coordinator and math teacher, spent a week in Colorado this summer training on how to operate and facilitate the STEM Lab. Staff members were given an introduction to the lab operations the first week of August.

“This will be a new experience for all and we can hardly wait to get started,” DeBest writes in a pamphlet for parents. “Be ready to hear all about STEM class every night. Please don’t hesitate to contact me.”  

An open house at the STEM Lab is scheduled for 5 to 8 p.m. Oct. 25.

The funds to renovate and equip the former woodworking studio, and the training for teachers and staff, have been the goal of several community projects. In addition to many private donors and local businesses, the Lab has been the beneficiary of Foundation for Educational Excellence fundraisers, including the “For Now and Forever” auction fundraiser last February, its annual golf outing at Lost Dunes and this summer’s Auto and Ales Car Show in cooperation with Haymarket Brewery & Taproom.

The Foundation committed $91,000 to the project and also raised an additional $65,000 from grants, businesses and individual donors.

Grants have been awarded to the STEM Lab by the Frederick S. Upton Foundation, The Pokagon Fund and the Lakeshore Rotary Club.

In July, the Lab was the beneficiary of the three-day Building Bridgman sand sculpting competition on Weko Beach which was sponsored by the Friends of RMS, Bridgman Public Schools and the City of Bridgman.  Sand Pirate Janet Schrader donated her services, bring the total funds raised over the $6,000 mark.  The event was organized by Kim Fenech and Jamie Faith.

“What makes Bridgman Public Schools such a special place for students is that all stakeholders in our community embrace the district’s vision that together, we can challenge students to succeed,” Truesdell said.

Truesdell is happy to provide tours of the new facility and can be contacted at (269) 465-5410 or jtruesdell@bridgmanschols.com.

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