Camelot Therapeutic Day School Adds STEM

Kristen Schaffer, Craig Reveter, Jeff Schumacher and Kate Powell in the aquaponics lab.

Kristen Schaffer, Craig Reveter, Jeff Schumacher and Kate Powell in the aquaponics lab.

Camelot of Belvidere has become the first therapeutic day school to add a special STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) curriculum. The program, which launched at the beginning of the school year, is already producing benefits.

“We are very proud of what this type of programming has done to raise the rigor and improve the overall school climate,” said executive director Craig Reveter. “We have one teacher at the school, Mr. Schumacher who has a strong background in STEM-based programming as well as a personal interest in using the STEM-based tools for teaching and learning.  He has really helped propel the programming this school year. In addition, Kate Powell is doing a great job heading up or aquaponics program.”

stem-science-fair

Belvidere Vocational Program Science Fair

Camelot of Belvidere opened for the 2013-2014 school year.  Staff used that first year to get a sense of the types of students enrolled and what their interests were for post-secondary opportunities.  During the 2014-2015 and 2015-2016 school years, staff researched what 21st century vocational programming looked like, toured alternative education programs and reviewed different vocational curriculums.

In June, the Vocational Coordinator at the school, Kristen Schaffer, the executive director Craig Reveter and Camelot’s VP for therapeutic day schools, Theresa Mortl Smith drafted what they felt would be the best program for the students.  What emerged was a vocational programming rooted in STEM.

“We wanted the STEM program to influence the entire school,” Mortl Smith said.  “Over the summer, curriculum, resources, equipment and technology were purchased to impact all curricular areas.  Most notable is the Aquaponics Lab and the work our students are doing with robots.  However, there are many layers of STEM programming woven into the school.”

stem-robotics-board

A presentation from the science fair.

Some people might be surprised to learn that a TDS has a special STEM program. But Mortl Smith says the results have validated their beliefs. “What we’ve noticed so far this year is that the entire school, including staff, has benefitted from the program. The level of student engagement in the classroom is at an all-time high, students are excited to come to school and use the STEM-based materials, and the overall school culture and climate has improved,” she said.

Schumacher has created a robotics club which is growing in interest across all grade levels.  The students also conducted a science fair in October, where they were able to display their STEM-based work for their parents and school district partners.
The STEM training is going to be starting at even younger ages. The school is planning to add a sensory table to the young elementary classroom and filling it with Legos and other manipulatives.  Students in the class will have the opportunity to use these parts to build, create and make critical STEM connections through play.

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