Kendra Ward (middle) learns about coding and robotics at a STEM teacher in-service hosted by the Alabama Extension System.

Educators learn about STEM

Learning doesn’t stop when the school semester ends – at least not for Franklin County educators.

July 9 Kendra Ward from Franklin County and teachers from Winston County gathered to learn more about science, technology, engineering and math and how they can implement these disciplines to greater effect in the classroom. The event was sponsored by the Alabama Cooperative Extension System and hosted at the Franklin County Extension Office.

Extension agents Janet Lovelady, for Franklin County, and Kerri Roberts, for Winston County, led the event, and they had coworkers from Lamar, Lauderdale and Fayette counties attend also.

“My favorite part of the training was collaborating with other educators from surrounding counties,” Ward said. “I always love getting new ideas and advice from others.”

Ward is the new Robotics Team sponsor at Tharptown Elementary School. Her experience with robotics comes from after-school and summer T.R.A.C.K.S. programs at Phil Campbell Elementary School. She has also had VEX robotic training.

“I like going to trainings because I enjoy learning all the new ideas and ways to teach,” she said.

At this event, educators were able to build and program EV3 robots, learn about introducing computer science vocabulary and concepts in the classroom and learn how to incorporate coding experiences into any subject area.

“The biggest thing I learned was new features and programs for the LEGO EV3,” Ward said. “I’m excited to teach the students about this because these new features will allow the students to expand their robotics knowledge and skill.”

According to Lovelady, the EV3 robot is environment sensitive, which means it senses factors like touch, light and distance. Ward and the other educators had to program the software for the robot to follow specific lines and meet other challenges on the mats.

“Some of them had more experience with it than others, but it was a good experience for everyone,” Lovelady said.

Teachers were also able to practice and learn about coding with CS First and how to set up the programs in their classrooms and track students’ progress.

“I think STEM skills give students the knowledge to succeed in class and future careers. I also feel that robotics teaches the students problem-solving skills that are valuable to their education as well as life,” Ward said.

This isn’t the only instance of educators in Franklin County seeking out STEM knowledge, and as technology and its uses continue to grow, it surely won’t be the last.