One way to start the school year is preparation for the STEAM Olympics. At Cotee River Elementary in Pasco County, the activities were planned for the first week of school to get students excited about learning early, as they used the school’s new Makerspace and technology purchased with a Title 1 grant.

The STEAM Olympics“This is a place for kids to come to use both sides of their brain, and today we’re using the right side of the brain with math and science,” learning design coach Kara Owen said. “This allows kids to tinker and explore and perhaps prepare them for jobs that don’t even exist yet. This motivates them to be critical thinkers — 21st century thinkers.”

Cotee River receives Title 1 federal funding to provide services where at lease 75 percent of the students qualify for free or reduced price lunches. “The grants are designed to increase student achievement,” said Title 1 program coordinator Brian Schultz.

STEM subjects are a major initiative in Title 1 programs, as well as the school district.  Cotee River’s STEAM Olympics were held at the same time as the Olympic games in Rio de Janeiro.  All students earned a medal, and the games were not always about winning

“This was awesome — the ideal situation,” said Stephanie Sheridan, the district STEAM coach for K-12 Title 1 schools. “It’s the first week of school, and the kids are already getting their hands in it. It’s exposing them to critical-thinking skills and to things they might not have at home. It’s a great engagement tool to keep them coming to school.”

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