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Stanley Middle School awarded $20,000 grant


Stanley Middle School awarded $20,000 grant from The Citadel

Students in the STEAM Academy at Stanley Middle School are getting the opportunity to not just learn about science, technology, engineering, arts, and math, but they are having fun while doing it.

English teacher Alice Ballard and math teacher Jaclyn Tant completed a multi-summer program through the STEM Center of Excellence at The Citadel that focused on infusing computing instruction in the classroom.  The school is using a $20,000 grant from The Citadel to provide training and help teachers infuse computational thinking into their daily lessons.  

Computational thinking (the use of a computer-like mindset to discover, analyze, and solve problems) enhances learning across a range of subjects and reinforces students’ skills and abilities in reading, writing, and math.

Ballard and Tant supervise a coding club at the school.  One of the ways students are using computational thinking is through a visual, drag-and-drop computer science program called “Snap! Build Your Own Blocks.”  In a way, it helps students think like a computer does in relation to design, creativity, problem solving, algorithms, and coding.

While computational thinking is computer science based, the train of thought can be used in English/Language Arts classes.  Students are able to identify things for themselves, such as using pattern recognition to determine what the characters in a story might do.  They also can use the concept of decomposition to break down the story and identify elements of the plot.

Pattern recognition lessons are taught in English/Language Arts where students learn to recognize repeated words to identify central ideas,” said Ballard.  “They also use pattern recognition to determine the symbols in dystopian novels.”

Pattern recognition is applied differently in math. “I start off with teaching about all of the elements,” said Tant, pointing out that the computational thinking elements focus on looking for patterns, identifying useful information, breaking up information into smaller pieces, and taking steps to solve the problem.  “Now, students can identify all four elements within each math problem.  This really helps them with figuring out a plan to solve complex word problems and tasks.”

Both Ballard and Tant believe it is important to train other staff members about computational thinking because it is a process that helps students become better independent thinkers and problem-solvers.  According to Ballard and Tant, it is rewarding to see students experience “aha moments” through their application of computational thinking skills. 

As the home of Gaston County Schools’ STEAM Academy for middle schoolers, Stanley students have the opportunity to engage in STEAM education, participate in a variety of core plus (elective) courses, and take up to four high school credit courses. Additionally, students can participate in one of the many STEAM-related clubs at the school.