Universities bring new STEM education to local elementary schools

Photo credit: Lehi Free Press

UVU has teamed up with Utah State and Alpine School District – with funding from Facebook – to provide new technology for teaching STEM at local elementary schools through SEEdPOD trailers.

The name SEEdPOD was derived from Utah’s Science and Engineering Education (SEEd) standards. The program has most recently been brought to Forbes Elementary school in American Fork. Sixth graders at the school were able to experiment with technology like a 3D printer, an earthquake simulator and VR systems.

Though the project was initially launched in early 2019, the COVID-19 pandemic slowed down a wider rollout. Speed picked up on the project late last year, with teachers from Alpine and Provo school districts developing lesson plans based on the technology.

The program is set up in year-by-year sections, with each curriculum developed by teachers from Provo and Alpine school districts. For example, in the pilot program, kindergarteners learn about basic concepts like motion and directions; in contrast, sixth graders learn about how energy and matter interact in the universe. 

“It has definitely been rewarding to go into the classrooms. The kids are really excited, so it’s really fun to watch them. It has been fun to teach something they don’t always get to do,” said Kate Elliott, the head UVU student assistant on the program. 

Other SEEdPOD trailers are currently scheduled to be delivered to schools in San Juan and Utah county.

To see more about the material covered in the pilot programs, check out this link.

The program was conceived by Dean Saeed Moaveni of the UVU College of Engineering and Technology. His idea was to develop mobile ‘technology pods’ that could be brought to different schools, with a goal to get K-12 students more interested in STEM subjects. 

Research for the project has been supplemented by faculty from Utah State University. Those involved include Parker Fawson and Kimberly Lott from the USU College of Education and Human Services and Ning Fang from the USU College of Engineering. This is in addition to the many faculty that provided support from UVU.

According to Krista Ruggles from the UVU School of Education, many teachers have not received training on teaching Utah’s new SEEdPOD standards due to the coronavirus pandemic. This project intends to fill in the gaps in that training through groundbreaking methods.

Facebook has played a major part in funding the SEEdPOD projects, and has been involved in affairs in Utah valley since starting construction on their Eagle Mountain data center in 2018. 

“STEM curriculum and hands-on educational opportunities are incredibly important for students of today to be career-and college-ready, and we’re proud to partner with Utah Valley University and the Alpine School District to support this new marquee technology,” said William Marks, community development regional manager at Facebook.

For more information on the project launch at Forbes, see this release from UVU.

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