STEM series: Northeast Elementary serves as staging ground for STEM-related curriculum
Owasso Reporter. Art Haddaway. November 07, 2018.

Northeast Elementary has become a staging ground for STEM-related curriculum.

This year, the school has increased its focus on the subjects of science, technology, engineering and math, thanks, in part, to staff like Jennifer Holloway.

Holloway, now in her second year as assistant principal, has set her sights on hosting more events and activities and keeping the school’s STEM lab full of rotations.

The longtime educator came to Owasso after teaching 3rd and 6th grade in Lawton Public Schools and serving as administrator for Tulsa Public Schools. She also spent 10 years as a professor for Cameron University’s Department of Education.

Holloway was also actively involved in OPS’ Strategic Planning Committee. She contributed much of her time as an engage parent to the process, which ultimately led her to focus her efforts on STEM, especially in her current role.

“One of those strands that we talked was that we wanted it to be STEM heavy, we wanted there to be more to focus on,” she said. “And so when I interviewed for this job … I shared ideas for engaging students in STEM because I knew that was the direction that the district wanted to head.”

One way Holloway has worked to introduce new curriculum is by bringing in an influx of STEM speakers over the last several weeks. In July, she scheduled several of them for the fall semester.

So far, Holloway has welcomed speakers from the Tulsa University Geological Sciences Club, OSU Extension Master Gardener’s Program, Tulsa Community College Allied Health Program, Tulsa Health Department and Tulsa Regional STEM Alliance.

Through the presentations, Northeast students have participated in a variety of interactive lessons encompassing a wide range of topics.

The Master Gardener’s Program, for example, allowed first-graders an opportunity to learn about worms by conducting an investigation using Canadian Nightcrawlers; second-graders to learn about butterflies and their lifecycle, pollination and value to food supply; and third-graders to learn about properties of soil by conducting their own investigations with soil samples.

The Allied Health Program also sent a representative from its nursing program to teach fourth-graders how germs work when they get on their hands, how hard it is to remove them, and how they respond to hand sanitizer versus hand soap and scrubbing.

“Our students love their teachers, and they’re great kids, but anytime we have someone from the outside come in, it’s a brand new voice, it’s a brand new load of sharing information,” Holloway said, “and the kids are keyed in, they’re tuned in.

“If it’s somebody’s parent, they’re really curious to know more about them and what they do. The speakers influence their writing, they influence the way they talk, the way they ask questions … so the speakers are huge motivators for learning for our students.”

Most recently, Holloway invited staff at the Metropolitan Environmental Trust to come in and teach on water filtration to every fourth- and fifth-grade student. They also provided large recycling bins for The Green Team to recycle each week at no cost.

Avery Thompson and Ryker Case, both fourth-graders at Northeast, said they enjoy Mrs. Amy Kisler’s STEM class, especially when she hosts speakers like the one from Metropolitan Environmental Trust.

“When Mr. Davis from the MET came, we got to filter groundwater using a strainer, cheese cloth, then a coffee filter,” Thompson said. “We learned how important water filtration is to drinking water.”

Case added, “I like learning with the different speakers we have at school. The speaker we had … got me thinking about the quality of drinking water in different countries. We got to practice using different types of water filtration devices.”

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