New GVSU initiative encourages STEM-based thinking at local elementary school

March 21, 2023 (Volume 46, Number 14)
Article by Clemence Daniere

two elementary students stand in hallway each holding piece of string connected to box on ground

Students from North Godwin Elementary School demonstrate their carrying device, an exercise developed through a MiSTEM program.

Photo Credit: courtesy photo

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 their creativity. 

“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.


Across Campus

This article was last edited on March 20, 2023 at 9:8 a.m.

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