Local middle school students spent Friday afternoon developing shoe models for children dealing with cerebral palsy.
The assignment, designed by Project Lead the Way — a national initiative also involving John Marshall High School and Washington Lands Elementary School — allows students to create ankle and foot orthosis prototypes in seventh- and eighth-grades. It is part of the school’s ongoing science, math, engineering and technology program.
For their final project in December, students will be required to design and create a toy for a child with cerebral palsy, to be judged by local therapists.
According to science and STEM instructor Bricie Brannan, the program teaches students the importance of core subjects. “These projects show students that math and science (go hand in hand),” Brannan said. “Technology doesn’t exist without science, and you need English in there to know how to read everything and write to explain your process.”
The West Virginia Education Alliance announced the school as one of eight West Virginia schools selected to create model STEM programs in 2015. The STEM Network Schools program was developed based on the recommendations of Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin’s STEM Council formed in April 2014.
As part of the program, all STEM Network schools will receive resources, including a $30,000 grant over three years. The school also has received about $70,000 in grants from the Schenk Foundation and Chevron. Technology provided by the funds and installed this summer also includes a “MakerSpace” with a laser cutter, vinyl cutter, router and lathe, along with crafted walls and table set ups to serve as idea boards. The school is still awaiting the arrival of a numerical control machine.
New Sherrard Middle School Principal Jason Marling is working to make the school’s STEM programs more inclusive for students and staff. He said four teachers are collectively offering 10 STEM courses each day with the help of local and state grants. An average STEM class includes about 16 students from grades 6-8.
Marling said his background as a math teacher before his time as a John Marshall administrator helped him understand the needs of the program during his first two weeks at Sherrard.
“We’re going to look at how we can be more inclusive with all teachers and keep expanding to grow the program. It’s starting here but I think it’s very important that we get more teachers involved,” Marling said. “Twenty-year veteran teachers may have been intimidated by a computer. Now we have people who may be intimidated by this equipment, but once they learn that it’s not that hard to use and get the right training, they can really open up doors for their kids and their curriculum.”
Avery James, an eighth-grader in Brannan’s STEM science course, said the program is a new experience for her and her peers.
“I manage my group and make sure everything is going smoothly,” James said. “It’s really fun, and I like new experiences at school.”