Students from North Godwin Elementary School demonstrate their
carrying device, an exercise developed through a MiSTEM program.
GVSU’s Greater West Michigan MiSTEM Region partnered with North
Godwin Elementary School, the Kent Intermediate School District and
Gordon Food Service to immerse students in STEM-based learning activities.
Showing students the range of their abilities at a young age is
crucial for their development and confidence to overcome obstacles
later in life, said Ginger Rohwer, regional director for Greater West
Michigan MiSTEM. This initiative helps build students’ identity
through STEM experiences and gives them the opportunity to use their
design-thinking skills to solve real-world problems.
MiSTEM is housed in the Regional Math and Science Center. The West Michigan region serves
Kent, Ottawa, Allegan, Montcalm, Newyago and Muskegon counties.
Students participated in three separate design experiences: designing
a better foot experience or carrying experience, and creating a
challenge anchored in a children’s book.
Rohwer said the design thinking skills are taught in the classroom
but, over time, students will use this method to broaden their skills
to larger scales of challenges. The project focused on the
human-centered design process and encouraged students to see STEM
innovation as a fun, yet challenging task in which they can exercise
“Part of what is developing for students is empathy and
social-emotional skills," Rohwer said. "Human-centered
design requires students to interview one another and find out their
personal problems and challenges. It is about developing skills and
habits for students that are beyond the basics.”
This practice is implemented at every grade level at North Godwin
Elementary, Rohwer said, allowing students to have nine separate
learning experiences by the time they move to middle school.
“We want to help students see themselves as problem-solvers and
innovators, and we want to intentionally build relationships with
community partners, like Gordon Food Service, which can help our
students see how their STEM work is relevant in the world,” said Rohwer.