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Oakdale Elementary Schools: Full STEAM Ahead
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Magnolia Elementary School Assistant Principal Kathy Jenkins engages with two second grade students as they work on construction of their robot during a lesson with Stanislaus County Office of Education STEAM Coordinator Sean Timmons. Teresa Hammond/The Leader

The elementary age students of Oakdale Joint Unified are learning robotics.

As mainstream media debates the differences and necessity of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) education versus STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts and Mathematics) education, OJUSD students are receiving hands on guidance and instruction.

Recently Sean Timmons, STEAM Coordinator for the Stanislaus County Office of Education, visited the four elementary school campuses in Oakdale offering a teaching session in age appropriate robotics building and programming.

As the STEAM Coordinator for the county, Timmons shared he spends much of his time working with teachers and conducting training sessions on the varying levels of STEAM.

“Working with teachers is nice,” Timmons said, “but it’s nice to get out and test the techniques with students as well. Then when we go back to the teachers we can say we’ve actually done this with 2600-plus students.

“We love reaching the kids,” he added. “They respond very well. They enjoy it and have a good time. They collaborate with one another.”

During his visit to the Oakdale campuses, Timmons shared he worked with second, third, fourth and sixth grade students. He used the most basic of instruction and guidance with the youngest of the learners.

“We go over the ground rules, review the parts, controllers, sensors, the simple build and the program,” he said, noting they have approximately 20 minutes of basic interactive instruction before the pairs of students are encouraged to build their robots.

“Then they take the skills from that 20 minute (maximum) presentation and they build the robot. They pick it up right away. This is their world,” Timmons noted of the varying age groups.

“One of the biggest things in the Common Core movement is to get kids to talk,” he said. “Often times it becomes forced. With this you really don’t need to do that. They are engaged. With the robotic program, they get fired up. They’re a device centered population.”

Timmons believes the hands on approach to students learning science is instrumental in the learning process, noting an increased positive response from female students and their interest in engineering.

“That’s what we need,” he said of the potential female engineers.

“Oakdale’s put a big focus on it (STEAM Education),” the coordinator shared. “Oakdale’s kind of leading the way. They’re really putting the research and the time into bringing STEAM to their students. I won’t at all be surprised if they’re the first to have a robotics program here, in the next couple of years