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Heritage High Organizes Schoolwide STEM Project

posted Oct 3, 2016, 5:26 AM by Chris Whitehorne   [ updated Oct 3, 2016, 5:27 AM ]
Heritage bowled a strike. Educators unveiled a schoolwide STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) theme project. The theme: bowling. Ronald Hickland Jr., manager of technology at Ebonite International, kicked off the initiative with four presentations throughout the day.

Ebonite International, a privately owned company in Hopkinsville, Ky., manufactures 60 percent of the world's bowling balls, and Hickland is responsible for designing, testing and approving all the products for its four bowling ball brands. Hickland first talked about his job, breaking down each ball's components and discussing the ways that he uses his education and training to perform his job.

He noted specific scientific principles, such as density, and their importance in his field. The manager also provided examples for each principle. He got students to test density by placing bowling balls in water, which has a density of one gram per cubic centimeter. "Here is the real-world application of everything you're learning in class," Hickland said. "Find your passion — video games, golf or food — and get more experience. Take what you know at a base level, chase it and turn it into something."

During the next two weeks, students will participate in a number of classroom activities that support curriculum standards and tie into the bowling theme. The high schoolers will present Nov. 3 what they learned in the school's theater on Nov. 3 and  participate in a bowling finale at Crest Lanes on Nov. 25. "One of our main goals this year was for it to be truly schoolwide, including as many non-STEM areas as possible and finding ways for them to connect lessons to this theme," said STEM coordinator Mark Dowlen. "We've connected things round a central theme, implementing a best practice that the L&N STEM Academy (in Knoxville) has seen success with.

The key to success is the same everywhere: teacher buy-in. "Student learning is enhanced when they can go from one class to the next and see the relationships between them. We want a day of learning, not five independent class periods. We want to get them excited about learning, maybe prod their teachers to relate lessons back to this theme. Most importantly, we want students to collaborate with each other and feed off each other. Learning becomes extremely powerful when it's peer-driven." Students, such as junior Callie Isbell, liked Hickland's presentation. "I loved hearing about the technological aspects of designing, testing and building bowling balls. I didn't know how to make one or how it even connected to real life before today. "Now, I do. It's pretty amazing, and I'm grateful that my school brought him here to speak with us. It shows me they care about us and want us to get a deeper understanding of what we're learn-ing."

"It's eye-opening to see the skills we're learning in class have real-world applications," said freshman Eric Breeden. "Not to mention, I've wanted to know what's inside a bowling ball for a while. I was a little shocked that it's just a core, and the materials have different densities and different weights. It's more complex than I would have imagined." "Bowling is an excellent theme, which we can relate to and understand," said senior Kori Cupp, who serves as Heritage High School STEM Club's president. "Most of us are familiar with bowling, so it's a wonderful learning opportunity for us. We can see STEM isn't just STEM. A lot of diverse fields need people who have this skill set."

The schoolwide initiative's bowling finale is the perfect conclusion, Cupp said. "We work so hard that we need a day to reflect on what we're learning. It's a major component of the learning process. We could do this unit and forget what we learned, but we're finding ways to have fun and remind ourselves that what we learned is real and relevant."