Students at the Southern Illinois University Edwardsville East St. Louis Charter High School are literally surrounded by technology in the school's $1 million science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) classroom with a 70-inch multi-touch interactive screen on one wall, a four-panel video screen on another wall, two projector screens on the third wall and a fabrication computer lab along the fourth wall.
The school's Program Director Gina Washington said the STEM classroom, which is being fully implemented for the first time this year, will "change lives. We have an advantage of educating minority and underprivileged students with this advanced technology," she said. "It's going to change their lives. ... They are going to have more options, because of the STEM experience at the high school level."
During a recent Algebra 2 lesson, teacher Jonathan Tate taught students unit circle trigonometry using the SMART interactive LCD board, which allowed Tate and students to write different points and equations on the board.
Following the algebra lesson, sophomore Marq Quinn described the STEM classroom has "one of the best classrooms" he's ever been in. "All the technology is just impressive," Marq said.
Fellow student Lashay Wood, a freshman, also said the STEM classroom was "really impressive." One of her favorite components of the room is the ability write on the walls with dry erase markers.
Sophomore Jamie Hill, who's attending the East St. Louis Charter High School for the first time this year, said she's enjoying using more technology than she did at her previous school. "You have more space to show your work," Jamie said, referring to the writeable walls. "It helps a lot. It's easier for teachers to show us exactly what they mean."
In addition to the interactive walls, the STEM classroom also includes 30 laptops, 30 iPads and 33 TI-Nspire computer-based calculators. To add to the flexibility of the room, all the tables, desks and chairs are on wheels, which allow them to be repositioned as needed.
The classroom named the William Frederick Graebe Sr. STEM Learning Center was paid for with a donation from East St. Louis native Robert H. Graebe and his wife Norma J. Graebe, who now live in Florida. It's primarily used by science and math teachers Matt Johnson, Barbara Lane and Tate but can also be reserved by other teachers at the school.
When using the STEM classroom, Tate's goal is to expose students to the educational side of electronic devices. "I want to show them the creativity of how we can use it to learn and not just for entertainment," he said. "It gives them exposure to the educational side and how can they use these things to learn and understand how these devices can be a source of knowledge."
The students prefer to be in the STEM classroom over the regular classroom, according to Tate, as it allows them to do more hands-on learning. He said the STEM classroom is used by students of all skill levels including special education students.
Johnson said the STEM classroom has "become an essential piece" of his teaching. "It allows you to do a lot more things," he said. "Rather than more traditional teaching, you can change how you go about it."
Lane said she enjoys the ability to teleconference using the technology available in the STEM Learning Center and has used it to teleconference with individuals at NASA. "That was pretty neat," she said.
In addition, Lane said she is looking forward to learning more about software available including computer-based virtual science labs, which will allow the students to witness simulations of experiments on a computer.
Johnson and members of the school's robotics team use resources in the STEM classroom to program two humanoid robots. Johnson is the team's sponsor assisted by Tate.
The Southern Illinois University Edwardsville East St. Louis Charter High School, which is in its 14th year, is located on the second floor of Building A of the East St. Louis Higher Education Campus. Patricia Merritt, spokesperson for SIUE, said the charter high school serves 100 ninth through 12th graders.
Contact reporter Jamie Forsythe at 239-2562 or firstname.lastname@example.org.