COEUR d'ALENE -- Elementary students at one school in North Idaho are diving right into math and science and loving it!
The North Idaho STEM Charter Academy is a winner of the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Foundation ID-21 awards for innovative educational ideas. The kindergarten through eighth grade school is a STEM program. It focuses on science, technology, engineering, and math starting in kindergarten.
Projects, inventions, and robots are all in a day's lessons for kids at the North Idaho Stem Charter. It's the first K-8 STEM school in Northern Idaho.
"We have our core classes in the morning and every afternoon students are working on projects like you see around the room here, all different grade levels," said Director of Instruction, Colleen Thomson.
Thomson said it helps students learn at a higher level. Students start different types of engineering in first grade.
"I think it really leads to that higher level thinking, and that's what we want to do because we move away from the basics of knowledge and they really start to synthesize and they do all the different things that they really need to do for that higher level thinking," Thomson said.
The school changed the roles for teachers and students.
"Students lead with their problem solving ability and then teachers become facilitators. So they're asking questions of the students and the students are always thinking and using innovation and creativity to answer those questions that usually we just give them the answer to," said Thomson.
The students seem to be enjoying school.
"I'm actually getting up on time and when my alarm goes off instead of hitting the snooze button, just because I'm so excited to go to school," said seventh grader, Jessica Millard.
Students do hands-on learning with technology becoming problem-solvers and innovators at an early age.
"They're learning by trial and error. And they're also finding out that failure is not a bad word...that from failure, good things happen," said Thomson.
As part of the award, the school will get a $50,000 grant. There are a number of things on the school's wish list, including a 3-D printer, they plan to buy with the grant money.