Perrysburg Jr. High STEM Lab Case Study

After years of research, phone calls, and planning, Perrysburg Jr. High School’s STEM teacher Jackie Derr finally has a lab to teach in, and she chose Buckeye Educational Systems’ solution of the Pitsco STEM curriculum for her classroom.

Derr’s room is extremely organized and functional, containing 15 different modules. “I love the Pitsco curriculum and the furniture I ordered through Buckeye,” Derr commented. “The shelves on one side of the table allow for organization of the general supplies the students need on a daily basis, and I can lock the chemicals and other supplies on the other side. Half of the surface of the table is utilized for one module and the other half for the module beside it.”

“One of the students’ favorite modules is the biotechnology module because they’re building the DNA models, and they are splitting the DNA in the test tube. Forensic science is another one that they really love,” Derr noted.

“Not only are they able to relate these modules to a lot of their other curriculum, but these modules are also teaching them life skills like communication, teamwork, higher level thinking, and critical analysis,” Derr added.

A 7th grade student in Derr’s class agrees, “I actually had to think about the questions they gave me; it is a good challenge. It was really neat to step into the world of an inventor and that widened my point of view/perspective.”

"When that light bulb goes off, that’s the most satisfying thing about being a STEM teacher."

In addition to enhancing and expanding previous knowledge, Perrysburg Jr. High School students also get to try new skills and explore topics they have not been exposed to previously. Computer generated module and partner selection is one of Derr’s favorite aspects of the Pitsco system. “Ninety-eight percent of the time, the students really enjoy the module by the end of it. Since they are not always paired up with their friends, they are forced to communicate with new people to complete the task. That’s real life,” she explained.

“I also have a chart on the wall near the module, and it lists possible careers that use those skills that they just learned and enjoyed,” said Derr. One of her 6th grade students appreciates that. “I like the way the modules made me think. I learned how to approach real world problems,” the student shared.

“One of my students developed a mobile app that when you turn it on, it will deliver an automatic message to any text messages received, such as ‘I’m driving; I can’t respond now’. The class really got behind that assignment,” Derr added.

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In her Buckeye Educational Systems’ Pitsco STEM classroom, Derr completes a class unit with each grade (6-8). The 6th graders make hot air balloons and wind turbines. 7th graders learn about and work with alternative energy, making solar powered cars. 8th graders print gears and pullies for racecars on 3D printers and then conduct races with their models.

Derr sees the lab as a useful tool for all students for uses outside of the modules, including state testing.

“PARCC testing utilizes a lot of drag and drop, and there are other computerized functions students will be expected to know. This class offers all of those computer functions. Some of the concerns with these tests are will students be prepared to maneuver around the computerized test and know what to do. This class will definitely help them to be prepared for the requirements of state tests.”

In addition to basic computer functions, state tests require other skills of students. Derr explained, “Students will also be expected to do ‘RCA questions’: Research, Challenge, Application questions, and what that will do is have them read graphs, answer a question relating to that graph, which will require critical thinking skills and higher level thinking in addition to multi-step questions.”

“In some of their other classes, students have explored weather, gears and pullies, and DNA. They do the hands-on here, and I question and assess their hands-on processes to see if they are thinking about the subject on a higher level, and they are!”

The professional development offered through the manufacturer was exactly what Derr was looking for, and she couldn’t be happier with the amount of training she received and the support she has been provided with before, during, and after implementation. “Jason from Buckeye is always available to me. I called him many times during the first few weeks of our lab. He was in here every other day. He was a big help. Pitsco is amazing to work with as well. I had their number on speed dial, and just like I told the kids, like in the real world in a work situation, if you don’t understand something, you don’t shut down for the day. You get help. You research. You figure it out.”

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“The training was very well put together and fun,” Derr commented. “The continued support was very helpful and the manufacturer was there every step of the way for me.”

“The biggest thing that this class promotes is peer relationships, collaboration, and problem solving, and that’s what real life is about,” Derr continued. “When my students tell me they have connected something they have previously been taught with what we are learning in here, it’s worth everything. When that light bulb goes off, that’s the most satisfying thing about being a STEM teacher.”

“I have started to receive parent feedback, and one parent stated, ‘I think it’s fabulous you are encouraging higher level thinking in the classroom’, and I couldn’t be happier to receive that comment,” Derr said.

By Heather Pohlabel

Perrysburg Jr. High Student Testimonials

Practical Skills Module
“I liked the hands-on activities we did, and I thought it was cool to learn about stuff we take for granted, like plumbing and electric. This module taught me not only about educational things, but about skills that are useful to know for everyday life” – 7th grade student

Ideas and Innovations Module
“You actually have to think about the questions they gave you; it is a good challenge. It was really neat to step into the world of an inventor and that widened my point of view/perspective.” - 7th grade student

Engineering Towers Module
“We actually got to make and design a tower, just like an engineer. I really designed a tower! I think that was fun because I never really get to that much and I finally did it.” - 7th grade student

Biotechnology Module
“I like learning about genetics because I find DNA very interesting. Biotechnology is used in my life every day.” - 7th grade student“

Energy, Power, and Mechanics Module
“The module was fun and we could build things and see how we use wind in real life. I learned about wind and wind pressure and how we use wind for daily needs.”- 7th grade student

Flight Technology Module
“I really enjoyed learning about the plane. I didn’t know so much went into flying.” - 7th grade student

Electricity Module
“This was my favorite module. We used the whiteboard to draw the circuit board and used the circuit board, which I liked. It was very partner active and I was learning and having fun at the same time.” - 7th grade student

Computer Graphics and Animation Module
“I learned how to work as a team better and I also learned how hard animation is. I liked the digital stop-motion because I’ve always wondered how to make them.” - 7th grade student

Robotics Module
“I liked how two monitors enabled us to use synergy and the programming at the same time. I was surprised that I learned how to program the ultra sonic sensor.”- 7th grade student

CNC Manufacturing Module
“I liked programming on the computer to make something cool. I learned how to program a computer to cut a plate.” - 6th grade student

Immunology Module
“I couldn’t have asked for a better module. I learned so much. I enjoyed using a microscope. I feel like I learned a ton! I learned how to identify bacteria, how a disease spreads, and how to use and identify a microscope.” - 6th grade student

Intelligent Homes Module
“I never really cared about home appliances but now I think they are cool.” - 7th grade student

Mobile Apps Module
“I enjoyed making the no texting while driving app. I didn’t know how to do this before.” - 7th grade student

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