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Elementary STEM Labs
Engineering Design Process Buncombe County Schools Elementary STEM Labs

STEM labs are in place in all primary, elementary and intermediate Buncombe County Schools. Beginning with six pilot schools in 2016 and adding the remaining schools in the 2017 school year, each k-5 student participates in the STEM lab for a minimum of four challenges a year.

The BCS STEM Labs incorporate the Engineering Design Process (EDP) in STEM challenges integrated with the North Carolina Science curriculum. After a unit of study in science, students get the chance to apply their knowledge through the STEM challenges. The challenges are designed for students to Ask, Imagine, Plan, Create, and Improve upon their solutions to the challenges. Students work collaboratively to solve the challenge that is tied to a real world problem.

In our K-5 schools, the labs are staffed by STEM Lab Assistants who are trained to guide the students through the Engineering Design Process. The assistants work in partnerships with the classroom teachers who teach the science content needed to work through the challenges.
Language arts standards are integrated into each challenge through speaking and listening skills as well as writing. Students use either paper or digital notebooks to record their brainstorming and planning using diagrams and a materials list, while showing their understanding of the criteria and constraints put forth in each challenge. Students also take the time to reflect on the process they used to create their designs as well as discuss the parts of the design that worked well or what they needed to improve.

BCS STEM Lab LogoTechnology is used in our STEM labs through iPads, computers, 3D printers, and robotics, but the focus is on using a process and materials that allow for creativity and chance to be problem solvers in a collaborative setting. Challenges are designed to be open ended, allowing for multiple solutions and giving the students the opportunity to be creative and build collaborative skills with their team members. In recent updates, students are also introduced to possible STEM careers embedded in each challenge. By starting in kindergarten, Buncombe County Schools students are allowed to experience a variety of problems, given a process in which to solve them, while learning to work as a team.
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