Guinyard-Butler Middle gaining free STEM lab

  • Students at Harmony Science Academy in Brownsville, Texas will be welcomed back to school in the fall by this new STEM lab created by PITSCO Education. This contributed photo gives a glimpse at what the new lab at Guinyard-Butler Middle School could look like.

UPDATE

Susan Gardner, a sixth grade math teacher at Barnwell Elementary School, has been hired as the STEM lab teacher. See original story below for details on the STEM lab.

ORIGINAL STORY

Guinyard-Butler Middle School is one of only two schools in the state selected to receive a free STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) lab.

Guinyard-Butler along with a middle school in Orangeburg District 5 will each receive a STEM lab after the Education Oversight Committee presented a bill to Gov. Nikki Haley, which she included in the budget. The schools were selected because they are part of the Abbeville equity lawsuit that accused the state of failing to provide a “minimally adequate” education for poor and rural students. However, Barnwell’s inclusion in the federal Promise Zone helped District 45 stick out among the interested schools, said Crissie Stephens, the district’s assistant superintendent.

“Those two things working together really helped us,” said Superintendent Jay Grissom to the school board during the June 23 meeting. He thanked Danny Black with SouthernCarolina Alliance for making the district aware of the opportunity.

The lab will be constructed by PITSCO Education, a company with 45 years of experience creating STEM facilities across the country. PITSCO will fund all equipment, furniture and materials, said Stephens.

A video for PITSCO explained their STEM labs as “hands on, minds on”. Stephens described the lab as a student-centered cooperative learning environment featuring personalized learning and peer-to-peer tutoring. The teacher will be a facilitator and have the freedom to focus on students who need assistance. It will be hands-on, multimodal (audio, visual, kinesthetic) and rigorous, she said.

One of the objectives students will delve into is alternative energy, such as hands-on activities to harness wind energy to produce electricity.

“Experiencing it is so much more powerful than reading about it or having someone tell you about it,” said Stephens.

PITSCO will also provide a “customized 6th-8th grade STEM curriculum designed to address the needs of local industry,” according to Stephens. She said students will be exposed to more than 400 career opportunities during their time in the lab.

While PITSCO is covering the cost of the lab, District 45 will be responsible for providing a teacher, although PITSCO will provide the training. Grissom said they will not have to add to the budget because there is a slot open at the middle school and they can move people around.

An ad for the position on the district’s website describes the teacher as someone who will “lead the students in opportunities to develop and practice critical college and career readiness skills, such as teamwork, communication, critical thinking and problem solving.” Qualified applicants will possess a current South Carolina teaching license, have at least three years of teaching experience in math or science, have experience in researched-based instructional practices, be proficient with technology and preferably have a gifted and talented endorsement.

The district will also be responsible for providing a room for the lab, providing data drops and internet access, and accommodating visitors to the lab. Stephens said the lab will be a “high profile pilot” that the state and PITSCO wants to use as a model statewide.

Stephens said they hope to have the lab ready for the start of the new school year in August.

“We are very fortunate,” said Stephens of the opportunity.