Step into Chris Bronstad’s classroom at Key Peninsula Middle School and you’ll find a whole fleet of aircraft flying from the ceiling.
In one corner of the room, there’s a model of a 1900 glider under construction.
All the planes have been created by students in Bronstad’s aerospace class, part of the school’s STEM program.
According to KPMS Principal Jeri Goebel, STEM –– which stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math –– has been part of the KPMS curriculum for 11 years.
The goal of STEM is to get kids interested in studying science and math and how to apply those disciplines to engineering and career activities.
On Mar. 18 the school will host a science night to show the entire community some of the STEM activities KPMS students are doing. “And we’ll also have food,” Goebel said with a smile.
KPMS is a NASA Explorer School, “so we started our STEM program with aerospace,” Goebel said. “We’ve had NASA experiences like opportunities for students to do labs for NASA scientists via technology, going on trips to NASA locations and things like that,” she said.
Bronstad’s students are also studying the history of aeronautics “starting back with the Wright Brothers,” he said.
“I want them to have the basics of what flight is and the history, and there’s so much history in our country and other countries and how things have changed along the way. I also want them to see all the different applications of aeronautics,” he said.
Dailey Johnson and Robert Garlick are both in Bronstad’s aerospace class.
“We learn about aircraft and spacecraft. It’s kind of more advanced than a regular science class and you get to do a lot of hands-on things. it’s really cool,” Dailey said.
His classmate agreed. “We’re building models of a 1900 glider,” Garlick said. “We’re learning about wing structures and how the airflow over the top of the wing creates a low pressure zone underneath. It’s a fun class as long as you pay attention. I want to become an aerospace engineer,” he said.
In addition to aerospace, KPMS also offers STEM classes in forensics, robotics and AutoCAD computer programming.
KPMS student Calvin Losh has taken two robotics courses. “It was super fun,” he said.
“The class was called Lego Mindstorm. You use Legos to make any kind of a robot and you can program them on a computer or control them with a phone.
“We program them on the computer and they have to do certain tasks. And with the phone, we do something called Robot Wars where we all build our robots and they fight against each other and the last one standing wins. I learned how to program Lego Mindstorms. It was so cool,” Losh said.
That kind of enthusiasm is typical of students’ responses to STEM classes, Bronstadt said. “The kids love the hands-on experiences.”
Richard Miller is in his third year of teaching at KPMS. He has taught 8th grade science and also teaches the robotics, forensics and the new AutoCAD class.
He’s a strong advocate of the STEM program.
“STEM classes drive the kids to STEM careers, which is where the money and opportunities lie,” Miller said.
“If they’re not STEM-competent, they’re going to be severely handicapped regardless of the career they choose –– whether it’s a mechanical career or an industrial-type career. Without those STEM skills they won’t be able to handle the technology that’s going to be required of them in the work force,” he said.
Students in Miller’s forensic class love what they’re learning.
“It’s one of my favorite classes,” said 13-year-old Landon Forsel. “I like this class a lot because we learn a lot of different things and there are a lot of options of what you can do with it, like becoming a police officer. There are some things that are sort of scary but it’s all so interesting,” he said.
His classmate Tayvin Huseby, 13, agreed. “This class is really, really fun and I’m doing it again. We learned about how crime scenes are investigated and how everything works and that’s actually inspired me to do something that has to do with forensics,” Tayvin said.
“And Mr. Miller, our teacher, is really cool. He’s my favorite teacher in the entire school. I had him for robotics last year and it was really fun. Our class even went to districts,” he said.
Middle school is the age when kids are at the crossroads of their life, Miller said. “This is the age when they decide who they are and what they’re all about and the decisions they make in middle school will guide and direct them the rest of their lives.”
He said STEM classes teach the students problem-solving skills, how to adapt and how to answer their own questions.
“We want to make sure that they have the real world skills to function effectively. And we want to inspire them,” Miller said.
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