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Tacoma Middle School Tech Students Build Apps and Arms
Betsy Constantine teaches Career Technical Education (CTE) and Mathematics, Engineering, Science Achievement (MESA) at Tacoma First Creek Middle School. The term MESA was coined in California in the 1970s, and is something of a precursor to today’s STEM programs (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics).
Constantine notes that MESA programs introduced project-based learning as a possibility. Today, science and technology programs all over the country rely on this approach to engage children as active learners and innovators.
The research students conduct to execute a project effectively is how they learn. For instance, students will research aerodynamics because they need to learn about the forces that hold a plane aloft if they want to design a paper plane that will travel far.
In Constantine’s classroom, students are engaged in projects that hint at her goal of preparing them to succeed in the 21st century job market. One group of students is working on building apps that will allow their computers to communicate with Android devices. Another group is using Arduino microchips to program prosthetic arms.
The projects are fun and interesting to students, but they’re also hugely valuable in helping them build key skills. Constantine notes that they learn high-level thinking, collaboration, inquiry, communication and hone other skills that will prepare them to succeed in a job market where STEM-based knowledge and capabilities are in high demand.
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