Golden Apple: Gene Dillon Starts School Year Full STEAM Ahead
Gene Dillon Elementary School is just starting to build their legacy, and one way they’re doing that is by taking STEM, but thinking bigger.
“We’re really excited about our STEAM program, which is basically STEM, if you will, science, technology, engineering, math. We added art because we want kids to be able to produce and share out their ideas. We also want them to understand the engineering process,” says Ami Aalgaard, the principal of Gene Dillon Elementary School.
All of the over 800 4th and 5th graders at Gene Dillon get to take the STEAM class. They work new classrooms that are equipped with the latest technology.
“We really trying to introduce this earlier because kids are really excited about this. It’s a really good way to drag in some of those academics and show them some of the applications they can use them for,” says Travis Whittington, a STEAM teacher at Gene Dillon.
Casey Reierson, another STEAM teacher, adds, “It’s pretty easy getting those kids excited because of the generous tools. I mean, our district has supplied us with such great things in our classrooms that these kids have smiles on their face when they walk in. It’s their favorite class of the day.”
In STEAM, everyday is a new challenge that the kids have to solve.
“We do something called missions, and those are kind of like our big ideas or our big projects that we’re working on. Right now, my kids are starting on some digital citizenship and then we’re gonna move into Spheros,” says Whittington.
With the Gene Dillon STEAM program, the possibilities are endless. The students can design a robot in class, practice their coding, or even produce a video. One thing about the STEAM classrooms is they were made for collaboration.
Reierson adds, “That’s one of the main things with STEAM is having the kids collaborate and work together. So our classrooms are open to students working in large groups and our classrooms are also a little bit bigger than the regular ed classrooms.”
The lessons the kids learn in STEAM are meant to carry on throughout the rest of the school and eventually their entire school career. The hope is that something the students do in STEAM will pique an interest.
Whittington adds, “At the [4th and 5th grade] level, we’re kind of trying to ignite that fire for the middle school and high school levels which will continue these programs. Middle School has a great STEM program, and the High School has a lot of industrial tech programs that will really kind of feed the fire to these kids.”
“When they have a science lesson from their regular ed teacher, something in their brain kind of clicks and they see that, ‘oh, we did this in STEAM class’,” says Reierson.