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Real-World Learning Through STEM Innovation:

Connecting Classroom to Community

By Joseph Schany - | Mar 11, 2021

STEM INNOVATOR - Darca Saxton, Emmetsburg K-12 Extended Learning Coordinator and K-8 Extended Learning Teacher, received certification as a STEM Innovator and has implemented the program's framework with her 5th and 6th grade students. Pictured, kneeling (from left): Ella Auten, Sloan Rodemeyer, and Mikayla Rouse; Back row: Kaylee Masese, Aliyah Dietrich, Mrs. Darca Saxton, Lily Straw, and Adeline Lowman. -- Joseph Schany photo

by Joseph Schany

Most educators will tell you their primary goal is not to enable students to just do well in the classroom, but to help them succeed in the lives they lead well past graduation. Darca Saxton, Emmetsburg K-12 Extended Learning Coordinator and K-8 Extended Learning Teacher, as well as the Emmetsburg Community School District (ECSD), are working harder than ever to prepare students to become future-ready through an interdisciplinary and applied approach to education using STEM.

STEM is a curriculum based on the idea of educating students in the four specific disciplines – science, technology, engineering, and mathematics – by integrating them into cohesive learning based on real-world applications rather than teaching them as separate subjects. While STEM is not new to the district, the opportunity to design and implement a program that will help benefit Emmetsburg students for years to come is closer to a reality, and Saxton is leading the way as a certified STEM Innovator.

“STEM Innovator is professional development that gives educators a chance to design unique innovation models for their school and district,” explained Saxton. “The learning we come away with allows us to transform our classrooms into incubator spaces where we bring in real-world problems for our students to solve. In solving these, hopefully they can connect with community or industry partners, really make it very job-like, real-world experience.”

Finishing her Master’s degree in the fall, Saxton was in a class that asked her to reflect and take a stance on an issue in education.

“The issue I chose to reflect on was how to better engage my students,” said Saxton, “because sometimes, just like anyone, they come in and sit and don’t become active learners.”

Read the full article in The Democrat.