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Transforming School Culture Through STEM

Written by Bill Laurienti

A Colorado elementary school is undergoing a cultural revival after just a year of hands-on learning with a SmartLab HQ.

“It’s incredible what you see, what you hear,” said Cherrelyn Elementary School Principal Eva Pasiewicz. “We have a different energy!”

Cherrelyn Elementary School in Englewood, CO, implemented a SmartLab HQ last year after receiving a grant to provide innovative, 21st-century learning opportunities at their school.

Since experiencing all the lab has to offer the more than 200 students, it’s hard for Pasiewicz to imagine education without the hands-on learning a SmartLab HQ fosters. “The creativity they’re allowed to have in that classroom is incredible,” said Pasiewicz.

“The projects appeal to all learning types and are amazing on their own,” Pasiewicz said, but what impresses her most is the “ripple effect the lab has on the rest of the school day and beyond.”

Pasiewicz said the lab is creating a different culture of learning, boosting Cherrelyn’s existing STEM-based curriculum. “The skills our students acquire in the SmartLab HQ are showing up in other classroom work as well.”

“There is so much learning about how to get along with people, how to make decisions and figuring out road blocks,” she said. “I can just go on and on about all of the learning of the soft skills.”

“That’s what STEM is all about,” Pasiewicz said. “It’s really turned us into a more challenging yet more inviting learning environment. The kids are challenged at these high levels and they love it and they want more.”

When asked what students do in the SmartLab HQ, Pasiewicz laughed.

“Everything!” she said. “They do robotics. They code. It’s incredible what you see, what you hear.”

Pasiewicz said the lab appeals to students of all learning types, from the introspective thinker to the busy, hands-on learner.

It’s also creating more parent engagement. Parents get to take the lab for a spin during STEM-a-Palooza Nights at the school, even building their own rockets and matchbox cars. “We’ve had more parents in our building with those nights than we’ve ever had,” Pasiewicz said. “It’s just incredible.”

She said the cultural and educational impacts Cherrelyn’s SmartLab HQ have made on the school are well worth the investment. “There’s no sitting on the fence,” Pasiewicz said. “You have to do this for kids.”

Bill Laurienti

Bill Laurienti is a Content Marketing Specialist at Creative Learning Systems. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in Secondary Education (English) from Colorado Mesa University and a Master of Arts in Secondary Teaching from the University of California's Rossier School of Education. Bill came to CLS after 10 years in the secondary classroom. He believes SmartLabs are important tools for engaging unengaged students and helping them access careers they might not otherwise have imagined.

Case Study

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When the team at Jewell Houston Academy, a magnet school in Texas, looked for a STEM program, they wanted one that would not only engage students in STEM careers but could also teach conflict-resolution, problem-solving, collaboration, and communication skills.

Read about how the SmartLab HQ impacted both learners and enrollment.