Russia introduces STEM lab


By Aimee Hancock - ahancock@aimmediamidwest.com



Russia first-grader Zachary Schmitmeyer, left, 7, son of Aaron and Sara Schmitmeyer, blows on a ball as part of a STEM lesson on objects in motion taught by Russia eighth-grader Kelby Doseck, 14, daughter of Bart and Nicole Doseck, at Russia Local School, Thursday, Sept. 20. The lesson was one of eight being taught in the classroom of Marcus Petitjean with help from eighth-grade assistants. The Schmitmeyers and Dosecks live in Russia.

Russia first-grader Zachary Schmitmeyer, left, 7, son of Aaron and Sara Schmitmeyer, blows on a ball as part of a STEM lesson on objects in motion taught by Russia eighth-grader Kelby Doseck, 14, daughter of Bart and Nicole Doseck, at Russia Local School, Thursday, Sept. 20. The lesson was one of eight being taught in the classroom of Marcus Petitjean with help from eighth-grade assistants. The Schmitmeyers and Dosecks live in Russia.


Luke Gronneberg | Sidney Daily News

Russia eighth-grader Eliza Gariety, left, 13, daughter of Lonnie and Greg Gariety, teaches Russia first-grader Koltyn Barhorst, 7, son of Deb and Kevin Barhorst, about magnetic properties during a STEM class taught by Marcus Petitjean at Russia Local School, Thursday, Sept. 20. The Garietys and Barhorsts live in Russia.


Luke Gronneberg | Sidney Daily News

RUSSIA — First graders at Russia Local School participated in a trial run of a new STEM lab activity center, Thursday, Sept. 20.

Under the guidance of technology coordinator Marcus Petitjean, the students worked in small groups at eight different stations, each featuring a different STEM subject.

STEM, which stands for science, technology, engineering and mathematics when applied in primary and secondary education settings, aims to prepare students for post-secondary options in these fields.

Petitjean, who has been a teacher at Russia for 39 years, felt that children often do not get enough firsthand experience with things like building, fixing and critical problem-solving.

“Kids are no longer growing up on the farm, so they’re not exposed to any of this,” Petitjean said. “A lot of parents don’t fix anything anymore; they just buy it new because some items now cost more to try and fix, or you just can’t fix it. When I was growing up, we had to fix it, or we did without. So I’m trying to give them some hands-on experience.”

Petitjean said he was able to make the STEM lab a reality over the summer by using leftover school funds. Students in kindergarten through sixth grade will have the opportunity to participate.

“I purchased a variety of activities for them that are grade-appropriate, with the teachers’ input,” he said. “With one activity, they’ll be learning about gears and building bridges, and another is for blueprint reading. We have eight activities (per class). They’ll come to this class once a month, and each time they come, they’ll do a different activity.”

In total, Petitjean said he acquired 38 STEM center activity kits. The kits are made to appear like toys or games, but by playing with them, students are learning in-depth problem-solving skills that have real-world application.

Some of the kits include activities based on learning about electricity, engineering, architecture, wind tunnels and building with bricks, as well as some kits for solving real-life crises like oil spills and water shortages.

During the lab’s trial run, Petitjean assigned a group of eighth-grade students to guide the first-graders through each exercise. He is also working with the Workforce Partnership of Shelby County to make STEM education accessible to students in grades eight through 12. His hope is that these students will learn about career options they may not have considered previously.

“I surveyed my junior high and high school students, and 95 percent said they were going to go to college, but when I asked what they were going to go into, 90 percent had no idea,” he said. “There are a lot of good-paying jobs out there that don’t require four years of college.”

Petitjean will work with various local businesses to come up with ideas for activities and events for these older students.

As for the STEM activity center, Petitjean said he plans to write for a grant this year to continue the lab’s funding.

Russia first-grader Zachary Schmitmeyer, left, 7, son of Aaron and Sara Schmitmeyer, blows on a ball as part of a STEM lesson on objects in motion taught by Russia eighth-grader Kelby Doseck, 14, daughter of Bart and Nicole Doseck, at Russia Local School, Thursday, Sept. 20. The lesson was one of eight being taught in the classroom of Marcus Petitjean with help from eighth-grade assistants. The Schmitmeyers and Dosecks live in Russia.
https://www.sidneydailynews.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/47/2018/10/web1_SDN092118STEM1.jpgRussia first-grader Zachary Schmitmeyer, left, 7, son of Aaron and Sara Schmitmeyer, blows on a ball as part of a STEM lesson on objects in motion taught by Russia eighth-grader Kelby Doseck, 14, daughter of Bart and Nicole Doseck, at Russia Local School, Thursday, Sept. 20. The lesson was one of eight being taught in the classroom of Marcus Petitjean with help from eighth-grade assistants. The Schmitmeyers and Dosecks live in Russia. Luke Gronneberg | Sidney Daily News

Russia eighth-grader Eliza Gariety, left, 13, daughter of Lonnie and Greg Gariety, teaches Russia first-grader Koltyn Barhorst, 7, son of Deb and Kevin Barhorst, about magnetic properties during a STEM class taught by Marcus Petitjean at Russia Local School, Thursday, Sept. 20. The Garietys and Barhorsts live in Russia.
https://www.sidneydailynews.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/47/2018/10/web1_SDN092118STEM2.jpgRussia eighth-grader Eliza Gariety, left, 13, daughter of Lonnie and Greg Gariety, teaches Russia first-grader Koltyn Barhorst, 7, son of Deb and Kevin Barhorst, about magnetic properties during a STEM class taught by Marcus Petitjean at Russia Local School, Thursday, Sept. 20. The Garietys and Barhorsts live in Russia. Luke Gronneberg | Sidney Daily News

By Aimee Hancock

ahancock@aimmediamidwest.com

Reach the writer at 937-538-4825.

Reach the writer at 937-538-4825.