Cross-Curricular Connections with STEM: Crescent City Jr/Sr School

Joining Forces in STEM Education

Crescent City Jr/Sr School in Putnam County, Florida is one of several schools in the district that combines middle school and high school grade levels into one cohesive unit. They have found that this model allows more students access to STEM materials and makes it easier to streamline curriculum in a way that helps students retain STEM concepts. Donna Kruithof is the jack of all trades when it comes to STEM programming at Crescent City.

A product of engineering school and an experienced electrical engineer, Kruithof also holds certificates in art education, Montessori education, and public education. STEM has proved an excellent combination of her skill sets. She has found her position as designated STEM and Computer Science teacher at Crescent City Jr/Sr to be fulfilling and inspirational.

The school, with Kruithof as the key classroom implementor, adopted Woz ED STEM Kits three years ago and has been playing with the design of their program for some time now. Kruithof has found it to be an excellent resource as a supplement, as well as a main event. She combines Woz ED Kit materials with sites like Code.Org, Scratch, and Bitsbox. She finds this to be an effective and engaging approach to teaching science, technology, and math concepts.

When it comes to successful programming, Putnam County might just take the cake for most schools engaging with STEM resources. What is even more impressive is that each of these schools is vastly different from the next in size, staffing, and age level. The common denominator seems to be community support, a network of mission-oriented organizations, and a motivated team of administrators to back the interest of students and teachers.

A Day in the Life of a Crescent City Student

Students at Crescent City see Kruithof every day. For middle schoolers, she teaches 3D printing, cybersecurity, and digital discoveries using Woz ED Kits and other technological resources. High schoolers learn computer science principles, coding, and engineering concepts when they visit Kruithof in her classroom.

On Wednesdays and Thursdays, the school implements block scheduling. Instead of normal 45 minute classes to fit every subject into the day, students visit three classes for an hour and a half on Wednesday and the other three on Thursday. These days, Kruithof works on longer, more detailed projects with her students, such as the Natural Disaster Drones lesson, which she cites as one of her favorite Woz ED STEM Kits. In this kit students are given a natural disaster scenario in which they have to figure out the best rescue plans and procedures using drones. They build models, test solutions, and carry out their modeled mission in the classroom.

While Kruithof is the solo STEM designated teacher that is master of all things Woz ED, there are other major Career and Technical Education subjects taking off at Crescent City that incorporate STEM concepts. The school has started an aeronautics program and is expanding the Digital Technology course next year where students will learn how to use digital applications like Adobe Illustrator.

What’s the Outcome of STEM Education for Crescent City Students?

Donna tells me that the best outcome of Crescent City’s new curriculum is that students no longer have “tunnel vision.” They understand that there are, more often than not, multiple ways to solve a problem or build something. She demonstrates this by sharing about her use of educational technology, “BitsBox,” in the classroom. Since this application does not offer any negative inputs or outputs, students are forced to look at the problems differently.

She notes that students are more willing to improve upon projects instead of determining them to be “done” on the first go around. They are willing to think on a deeper level and find ways to better their coding sequence, drone construction, or 3D printing materials. Since Kruithof sees the kids from ages 13-18, she gets to watch them grow over time. In some cases, she has witnessed complete 180s in the way her students think.

Career Pathways and Support

Crescent City Jr./Sr just broke ground for a new CTE building on campus. This is where Kruithof, Woz ED, and STEM courses will live in coming years. Here, Career and Technical Education courses including drones, cybersecurity, robotics, digital technologies, aeronautics and more will create a thriving system of knowledge that will prepare students for future careers.

Kruithof refers to this interweaving of subject material as “cross-curricular connections.” This is what makes the STEM world go round. If students are missing a chunk of knowledge about math that is hindering their ability to conceptualize code, the math teacher steps up to fix this.

Kruithof, an educator with a basis in classic Montessori Education lives by the pretense, “you follow the child.” This is the role of an educator; to start wherever the student is and help them grow into the best version of themselves. This looks different for each student.

“This is what I aim to do each day, help them become their best selves through exploration and support,”

says Kruithof.

Are you a teacher using Woz ED STEM or Science Kits in your classroom? Did your students create something really cool that you want to share? Do you have feedback for our team? Let us know below!

Give us feedback for our Science Kits HERE
Give us feedback for our STEM Kits HERE

 

Published: June 07, 2024

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