In Pursuit of Progress: Lockport City School District

A Long Standing Partnership

The Lockport City School District was among the first districts to collaborate with Woz ED. When the team first met Woz ED CEO Karen Young, they had recently purchased iPads for students to use in all of their K-4 classrooms. Fast forward to today, and those same kindergartners who demonstrated their skills on the iPads 12 years ago are now preparing to graduate. It has been a source of joy for both the Lockport team and the Woz ED team to witness each other’s growth over the years.

Among the district’s numerous accomplishments in STEM, science, and other areas, four of its elementary schools became Woz ED Science Pathway Schools this year. Each of these schools purchased six pathways and their corresponding kits. Teachers from Anna Merritt, Roy B. Kelley, Charles Upson, and George M. Southard are observing their students grasp complex concepts at young ages. They are engaged with the material, learning quickly, and simultaneously preparing to succeed in standards testing. This success can be attributed to the hands-on, investigative nature of these science kits.

Lockport boasts a passionate, driven, and focused leadership team. I had the opportunity to catch up with Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum Marianne Currie-Hall and two of the district’s superstar Technology Integration Coaches, Heather Bitka and Lisa Stastyshyn. They guided me through the process of STEM and Science Implementation at Lockport. Lisa has taken on the responsibility of integrating Woz ED Science Kits into the K-5 curriculum, breaking down the process of becoming a Science Pathway school at the elementary level.

Turning Elementary Science up a Notch

A few years ago, Lockport embarked on the journey of enhancing their elementary science curriculum. Administrators and instructional coaches, such as Lisa Stastyshyn, began developing “homegrown” science kits to align with the Next Generation Learning Standards. However, these homemade kits lacked the necessary depth. They then experimented with various programs that were overly dense with information and challenging to incorporate within the constraints of a typical school year. The introduction of Woz ED Science Kits came at an opportune moment and appeared to be an ideal match for Lockport’s needs.

Stastyshyn, the driving force behind elementary science integration, collaborated with science department leaders to assist teachers in pacing the units, modules, and lessons to fit within the 40-week school year. This typically translates to two 35-minute science lessons per week for primary grade levels and two to three 40-minute lessons per week for intermediate levels. Stastyshyn conducted extensive research to ensure the alignment of the science curriculum with state standards in science, reading, and math. She has been impressed by how seamlessly Woz ED Science kits align with state standards while keeping students engaged.

Teachers at Roy B. Kelley, Charles Upson, George M. Southard, and Anna Merritt have witnessed remarkable progress in their students’ engagement in science class. Many students who previously struggled with participation and engagement in class have flourished in the science classroom. Lisa mentions that students affectionately refer to her as “the science lady” and eagerly anticipate her visits, knowing they are in for a session filled with fun, exploration, and learning.

Not only are students engaged, but they are also comprehending complex concepts and applying them. Stastyshyn cites the example of the Woz ED Third Grade Earth Science Kit. Module 3 covers the Levee’s Test, a relatively sophisticated scientific test. Initially, some science teachers were skeptical about their ability to teach this concept to young students. Despite their reservations, they decided to proceed. What they discovered was impressive retention of information among students, who not only remembered the content presented in the kit but also applied the concepts to other scientific inquiries and approaches.

Keeping up with STEM Education

While these four elementary schools have focused on advancing their science programs, they, along with the entire district, have continued to expand their STEM initiatives. Lockport employs a unique approach to implementation, typically launching most STEM programs, including Woz ED, at the high school level before cascading them down to lower levels. The district now boasts a STEM Lab at each educational level, from elementary to high school, where students utilize Woz ED STEM Kits.

Heather Bitka, Lockport’s Instructional Coach at the high school level, acknowledges the challenges that come with continuously improving programs within a district. She notes that it can be difficult for individuals to recognize the need for improvement when something is already working well. Moreover, securing adequate funding and support to elevate programs further presents its own set of hurdles. Bitka observes that the Lockport team has demonstrated remarkable determination in pushing themselves to achieve more and seek out the best resources for their students, despite these challenges. Marianne Currie-Hall attributes the district’s success in STEM and Science to the people she works alongside. She says,

“If you want a program to work well, you have to have the right people at the table. If you have strong people facilitating and leading these initiatives it’s going to  happen and it’s going to  go well.”

Currie-Hall’s leadership strength lies in her ability to recognize the skills of others and effectively position them where they can make the greatest impact. Stastyshyn and Bitka reflect on their experiences working at Lockport, particularly with Currie-Hall, highlighting their shared commitment to serving the students and team members to the best of their abilities. Alongside support, shared goals, and a passion for education, Lockport’s teachers and leaders also share a deep sense of trust. They understand that when assigned a task, there is purpose behind it, and they are equipped to succeed.

Shifts in the Atmosphere: Science and Technology

As often seen with science and technology education, there have been some major shifts amongst Lockport students. Lisa, in the science classroom with kindergarten through fifth graders, has witnessed excitement and engagement from young students. In these classes, teachers refer to their students as scientists. Students are showcasing a robust understanding of the investigative scientific process. They are not only thriving in science class, but in other courses as well. They are approaching problems with optimism. 

At the high school level, Bitka has seen students take special interest in their STEM courses and decide to focus their energy towards learning more. She shares the story of one student who used one of the STEM Lab 3D printers to complete a project for literature class. She found that this student was much more present and engaged with this project than he may have been without this technological element. She has also seen science and technology courses bring students together that may not typically interact. “It has broken down barriers,” she says.

Currie-Hall, Bitka, and Stastyshyn have been inspired by their students as they have taken on new material and grown into confident, innovative, creative learners. They are in it for the students and for the relationships. Helping others learn new things is what brings Stastyshyn the most joy. Bitka, having once served the same body of students when they were 12 years younger, has been with them throughout the process. She considers it a privilege to witness her students discover what they love to do. 

Currie-Hall recounted her experience retiring for one day and then immediately returning. What brought her back so soon were the relationships she has with colleagues, instructional coaches, teachers, and students. Each day she is part of a supportive community that is striving to be better. As she put it,

“If we know better we do better. When you can still learn and find a way to do better then some really amazing things can happen.”

 

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: May 03, 2024

Standards-Based

Science Kits

Career-Aligned Pathways

STEM Kits