Sparking STEM


How one school program gave students wings


Students had the chance to spin the Wheel of Future and answer trivia questions about being environmentally conscious. Correct answers won them enthusiastic praise and a ticket, which are used school-wide as a reward system for positive behavior.


The Information Center featured story books about ways to live a “greener” life, information about renewable energy, and a solar-powered car. As the new groups of students came to the station, the student leaders introduced themselves and asked for the others’ names.

Another student leader wanted to make a coloring book, so she illustrated pages with facts about the environment and renewable resources for students to take home with them. When quizzing their fellow students about the topics of sustainability and green living, the students cheered them on and congratulated them for correct answers.


The student leaders took their roles seriously. This experience was their chance to show how far they have come and how much they have learned.

Here’s the thing you couldn’t see by just walking through the courtyard: These students were individually chosen to participate in this project because they were identified as falling behind. Only this April did Kim Manganelli join Kingswood as the intervention teacher and STEM specialist. In a month and a half, she empowered these students by giving them responsibilities and letting them find their own way to engage with learning.

Photo credit: Alisa Herr/ EdNC
Photo credit: Alisa Herr/ EdNC

At the previous school where Manganelli taught, “Green for Life” was a year-long project culminating in a school-wide Green for Life Day. At Kingswood, this whole production was prepared in less than 20 percent of the time, but you wouldn’t know it. The efforts paid off.

Kingswood Elementary students outside STEM school garden

When asked what their favorite part of the day was, the student leaders told me, “Seeing the younger kids smiling,” “Being the teacher,” and, “Sharing what we learned about ways we can save the animals and the environment.”

So the secret? Some students may need a little bit of a different approach, but once they are engaged with learning, they can soar.


Sparking STEM


About the author

Alisa Herr is the former chief technical officer of EducationNC.