The school year has come to an end, but the spark of curiosity to learn more about tech is just beginning for some Columbia Public Schools elementary students.
EquipmentShare has partnered with CPS to give students the opportunity to experience more hands-on learning in STEM subjects.
The pilot program began at Two Mile Prairie Elementary this year. Fourth and fifth graders participated in the club with EquipmentShare employees teaching them skills like coding and building robots.
“I have a huge passion for teaching kids and just giving them opportunities,” said EquipmentShare Software Engineer Clayton Kreisel. “I came from a very small school and I didn’t get a lot of these opportunities growing up.”
Kriesel’s role in the club was helping develop the curriculum and teaching students through hands-on activities. But, he said his role was greater than just teaching skills.
“Yes, I was there in part to teach them these fundamentals and this code and some of these skills, sure. But it was more than that,” Kriesel said. “I was there to help be a good role model and be a positive influence in their lives.”
Rodney Dixon, EquipmentShare’s Learning and Development Project Manager, was also a teacher and role model for the club. He said establishing this club will benefit the entire community.
“By being here and being willing to work in the community and open up these opportunities to kids, this is going to pay dividends for our community down the road,” Dixon said.
Tech Tools Club is part of EquipmentShare’s goal to invest in the next generation of young innovators and expose them to the construction sector.
“If we’re successful, and we’re able to employ this next generation of talent in STEM careers, it helps us build up that next generation and opens doors for them,” Dixon said.
Amanda Ruyle, Principal of Two Mile Prairie Elementary, said the club has opened students’ eyes to exploring new career paths.
“Being able to learn from other experts in the field of their expertise is so powerful for our kids,” Ruyle said. “It’s really impactful for them to learn about other careers that are out there, instead of just waiting until high school to think about their post-secondary plans.”
Dawn Moorehead’s daughter, Braxton, was a member of Tech Tools Club. She said the things her daughter learned in the club gave her a one-of-a-kind experience.
“She was provided an opportunity that I don’t think she would have gotten elsewhere,” Moorehead said. “I definitely think this brought her attention to other potential careers.”
During her time in the club, Braxton said she learned a lot about how important machines can be when it comes to helping people.
“I learned that energy powers machines, and that machines make work easier because it’s programmed to do things that make work easier for humans,” she said.
Not only did the club help students discover new opportunities, Dixon said it improved their character, as well.
“I think it’s helped them with confidence as far as learning things that they aren’t familiar with,” Dixon said. “We were very hands off like, ‘Hey, we’ve taught you these concepts— play around.’ So it was really cool to see how they communicated with one another, how they worked with one another.”
Ruyle said the structure of the club made it easy for students to integrate science, technology and math in a fun way.
“It’s almost like the kids didn’t realize that they were learning because they were so engaged in both hands-on opportunities and really thinking outside the box,” Ruyle said.
Ruyle said EquipmentShare’s sincere interest in helping educate the next generation of industry pioneers sets a good example for her students.
“Having a company here that is willing to be a partner – and it’s not just about monetary donations, but really working with kids and having that spirit of volunteering – that’s really important for our kids to see,” said Ruyle.
As a local company with a passion for teaching, Kreisel said he believes EquipmentShare has the power and responsibility to share its resources.
“I think it’s important for us as a company to just remember that sure, we do a very good job at what we do. But we also get the opportunity to help out society,” said Kreisel. “The opportunity to expose these young kids early on, to inspire them to see how the world works.”
EquipmentShare is currently planning to continue the program in the fall at Two Mile Prairie Elementary, its Partner in Education, with the goal of eventually expanding to more CPS schools.
Lilly Franks, a Tech Tools Club member, said she has two requests to make the club better next year:
“More robots,” she said. “And more food.”
Robots? We got 'em.
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