Students Can Apply Now for Battle Creek STEM Innovation Center
Battle Creek Public Schools (BCPS) is going into year three of its new BC STEM Innovation Center. It started with 6th grade, added 7th grade this year, and they’re accepting applications right now as they add 8th grade. Students who want to enter in any grades can still apply. Currently, BC STEM is located in the east wing of Battle Creek Central High School in a separate area. School officials say they are looking to merge some of those classes for eighth graders where they can earn high school credit since they’re connected to the high school.
TaShaune Harden returned to her alma mater to become the new Principal of BC STEM before the school year. “I was a graduate of the first class of the Battle Creek Math and Science Center,” said Harden. “I think BC STEM is a great opportunity for students to learn these skills in middle school instead of high school. STEM stands for science, technology, engineering, and math. Students still learn traditional subjects, but we intertwine everything with a science and engineering lens. Students do project-based learning. They build reflective inquiry skills and problem-solving skills, as well as learning the engineering process and design thinking to be able to identify and solve problems.”
As Michigan employers look for a workforce with specific skills, BC STEM is putting students on the path to fill those needs. “When we start talking about some of these areas, that's exactly what they're looking for. Students can gain hands-on experiences like designing bridges. They learn robotics. They're already learning coding and film editing as well as sustainable gardening.”
Jill Anderson’s son is a sixth-grader at BC STEM. “We moved in from outside of the district and it was actually the closest school to us. Otherwise, I don't know if I would have known about it. We are absolutely thrilled with it. My son is a kind of an artistic kid, but when he heard about the STEM curriculum, it really kind of sparked his interest, especially in engineering.”
Is BC STEM an ‘out-of-the-box’ learning experience, more than a more traditional learning experience? “Yeah, I'd say it is“, said Anderson. “I think it will prepare him to be a good employee, a good worker because he'll have all those great skills. But I'm seeing differences in the way that he thinks and approaches problems. It's quite hands-on and it's challenging him as a student to learn in ways that I think you traditionally might not in school.”
Anderson says her son recently did a “Rube Goldberg project”, where they had fun “tearing apart the house.” She said the project involves taking a problem and making it extremely complex. “Say you want to turn on a light switch. Well, you put a string around the light switch, hook it up to a stack of dominoes and a ball. You're using gravity, you're using the inclined planes, all these things to make a very complex solution to an easy problem. The kids just went crazy for it. They made videos and showed their videos online at the student showcase. And boy, they had so much fun doing it.”
Harden says BC STEM has been bringing in experts from outside in the community to give the students a different perspective. “Students in the sixth grade were able to meet an engineer from Pfizer right after they finished working on the COVID vaccine. One of the questions a student asked was when they had their first engineering class. That engineer who worked on the vaccine said that his first engineering class was in college. So, our students are way ahead of the game when it comes to taking engineering classes because they're only in middle school.” Soon, students will meet with a scientist from NASA.
BC STEM is taking applications for students from now until April 11th. The program has 60 students per grade, for a total of 180. Harden says that if more than that sign up, they will pick the students on a lottery basis, so everyone has an equal opportunity, and others will get on a waitlist.
Families interested in checking out the amazing work BC STEM middle schoolers have been up to, or attending an upcoming information session can learn more on their Facebook page. To apply, visit the BCPS STEM website.
BCPS is hosting virtual information sessions to help families and students learn more about BC Stem Innovation Center.
- English Information Session: March 18 at 5:00 pm.
- Burmese Information Session: March 4 at 5:00 p.m.
- Spanish Information Session: March 9 at 5:00 p.m.