FRANKLIN — Imagine children learning early on the applications of math, really getting to the heart of concepts by using all their senses.
Pearre Creek Elementary School students soon will have that ability with the creation of what’s being called a STEM room, an empty classroom soon to be transformed into a hands-on learning lab that features science, technology, engineering and mathematics concepts.
The project is in progress with the help of O’More College of Design students who developed the plans for the room. On board and inspired are other educators and parents and community members who have donated to its construction. The PTO recently donated $375, which included gifts from parents and grandparents.
“What we’re finding is that they are missing the practical application of math,” said Joye Ofner, a third-grade teacher at the school and one of the creators behind the project. “Kids don’t grow up on a farm and count eggs, they don’t have real watches. They don’t have this conceptual understanding of math in general.”
At first Ofner and other teachers discussing the idea thought of a magic math room, but it became clear that it had to be more, a room that was foundational in multiple disciplines for all elementary-age children at the school.
Pivotal to the success of the project is Kelly Gore, an O’More associate professor of interior design, who also happens to be the mother of three students at Pearre Creek. Ofner asked for her advice on the idea, and suddenly the idea slipped into reality.
Gore, who had coincidentally been researching educational environments, decided her human factors and design students would take up the concept as a class project. Many also have volunteered to help with the installation. The hope is to have the room completed by May, Gore said.
Once a year, teachers are able to line up field trips to the Adventure Science Museum, and it’s a great time for the students, Gore said. The students have so much fun and they don’t even realize they are learning, she said. With a STEM room, they can have a similar experience and visit once a week, solidifying many abstract concepts.
For now the STEM room idea may be the only one of its kind in the county, and it is attracting a lot of interest. It’s hard not to be impressed when plans call for a full-scale abacus and a geometric board. Look also for oversized dice that can be used not only to learn addition and subtraction, but as furniture. There also will be movable shelves and science stations.
“It’s fun. It’s cool. It’s experiential learning,” Gore said. “Most important the kids are getting excited.”
Reach Maria Giordano at 615-771-5425 or folllow on Twitter.com @MariaGiordano.