If you want to truly change STEM instruction, you need a clear vision.

At F.K. White Middle School, part of the Calcasieu Parish Public Schools in southwestern Louisiana, our students are now enrolling in a STEM enrichment program that revolutionizes the way STEM is being taught.

One year ago we started this initiative focused on graphic design using the Adobe software suite. Our students were able to develop multimedia productions sourced from DJI phantom drones and Canon cameras. Students were able to produce footage on a professional level and use Adobe After Effects, Premiere Pro, and Photoshop for post-production.

We also purchased several 3-D printers to spark the imaginative juices of our students. As we look to broaden the scope of instruction, students will continue to explore technologies using drones, motion capture, robotics, coding, 3-D design with 3-D printing, app design, and the Adobe software suite.

Specifically, students entering sixth grade will have the opportunity to be part of a unique STEM enrichment program that includes several modules. The module time frame will vary based on teacher assessment, allowing more or less time for academic discovery. This particular curriculum is designated as a STEM 1 course and will build upon itself, allowing the students to go deeper within the modules as they progress to the next grade level.

The program, which is just beginning and is a work in progress, is outlined below, as a guide for secondary school principals who want to implement a similar program at their schools. 

STEM Enrichment Program Modules

Module 1 (3 weeks)

Video Production and Editing—Students will learn the basics of audio and video capture. They will utilize Adobe After Effects software to edit their own video productions, which will include both green screen and chroma key. Students will gain enormous confidence in their ability to truly create “art” from scratch.

Module 2 (3 weeks)

Graphic Design, Animation, and Image Manipulation—Students will utilize Adobe Photoshop to manipulate images and other tools for graphic design and animation. Many students who have watched high-tech animation films will find this fascinating. 

Module 3 (3 weeks)

CAD, Computer-aided Design, and 3-D Printing—Students will utilize Sketch Up design software to create functional parts that solve problems. Their ideas will become reality through the process of 3-D printing. Students are aware of the future impact of 3-D printing, and we’re helping to bring it to life with them.

Module 4 (3 weeks)

Creation: Building and Design—In partnership with the McNeese State University College of Engineering, students will utilize a combination of cognitive and tactile skills as they complete design projects with a focus on engineering. They’ll get to hear from real-world engineers and, hopefully, begin to consider that as a career field.

Module 5 (3 weeks)

Math and Technology Laboratory Investigations in Life Science—Students will perform laboratory and field investigations that seek to combine math and science in problem solving. Labs from the National Math and Science Initiative (NMSI) curriculum will be utilized, along with probeware labs created by Pasco and/or Vernier Software & Technology. Students will collect data through cutting-edge technology and hear from doctors, nurses, and park managers who bring an element of reality to this technology.

Module 6 (3 weeks)

Math and Technology Laboratory Investigations in Physical Science—Students will perform laboratory and field investigations that seek to combine math and science in problem solving. Labs from the NMSI curriculum will be utilized along with probeware labs created by Pasco and/or Vernier. Special emphasis will be placed on data collection through the use of cutting-edge technology. Speakers who are employed in STEM fields in the physical sciences will be invited to discuss career choices with students.

Module 7 (3 weeks)

Electronics and Circuits—Students will learn about electrical circuits and the basics of electricity, in addition to learning how to read schematics. You can bet they’ll be able to teach their parents a thing or two about electricity. 

Module 8 (3 weeks)

Coding—Students will learn introductory computer programming. They will utilize online resources such as www.scratch.org, www.codeavengers.com, and www.codecombat.com to direct them through the process of learning the programming language of JavaScript. The introduction of a gameplay environment will help generate and retain student interest. Students will also explore the website programming language of HTML5. We realized that students will be expected to be uber computer literate, and this is targeted right into that zone. 

Module 9 (3 weeks)

Robotics—Students will utilize Boolean logic to program robotic vehicles. The robotics module will be developed and presented in conjunction with Citgo Petroleum Corporation and McNeese State University. Students will build appropriate vehicles—yes, really, robots.

Module 10 (3 weeks)

Microcontroller Projects—Students will create innovative devices utilizing Arduino microcontrollers (small computers that have programmable input and output elements). Using very simple coding (and borrowed code from the Internet), students can program microcontrollers to control LEDs, speakers, robots, etc.

Module 11 (6 weeks)

Drones—Students will learn to operate and control the flight of drones. There is no faster-growing industry than drones, and by outfitting them for delivery services, tracking a simulated fugitive or a lost child, and video production sequences, these students will be on the cutting edge.

Motion Capture—Students will record the movement of other students and use that information to animate a digital 3-D model. The OptiTrack rig produces content on par with big-budget Hollywood productions and video game animation.

Mobile App Creation—Students will utilize a mobile app authoring program from MIT and follow a curriculum written by Dr. Corinne Hoisington in her book Android Boot Camp for Developers Using Java. Students will test their apps using a software tool that emulates a multitude of Android phone platforms.

Room to Grow

There are many hidden learning advancements embedded in this curriculum that allow students to become proficient in software programs designed to produce credentials in other areas. For example, as students’ knowledge of the Adobe software suite progresses, they will have the opportunity to become an Adobe Certified Associate.

Professional development is a huge component to this venture as well. The teachers leading the classes as well as STEM coaches are trained in each module.

The vision for our program is fluid and ever-changing. We will explore new ideas and bring in other technologies as we progress

Julian M. Guillory, BSCS, MAT, MEd, is an assistant principal at F.K. White Middle School and technology facilitator in Lake Charles, LA. Darrell McDaniel is a STEM educator and development leader for the PROGRESS Project, a federal grant awarded to the Calcasieu Parish Public Schools in Lake Charles, LA.