Pouring on the STEAM

State STEM official visits Good Hope Primary School to see kid scientists in action

L-R: Superintendent Dr. Shane Barnette, Good Hope Primary Principal Tonya Cupp, STEAM Lab teacher Kristi Barnette, Assistant Superintendent April Tucker and Alabama STEM Council Chief Dr. Lee Meadows in the STEAM Lab Thursday. (Photo courtesy of Tonya Cupp)

GOOD HOPE, Ala. – Good things are happening at Good Hope Primary School; good enough to catch the attention of officials in Montgomery and draw a major player in the state’s science and technological education programs to drop in for a visit. On Thursday, Alabama STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) Council Interim Executive Director Dr. Lee Meadows visited Good Hope to see the STEAM (like STEM but with Arts added) Lab run by teacher Kristi Barnette and watch her students at work. 

Good Hope Primary Principal Tonya Cupp told The Tribune, “Dr. (Vicki) Karolewics with Wallace State, she came to visit because she’s on the state STEM council. And when she came and visited last week, the students were doing open and closed circuits, and they were making solar powered houses that were lighting up. And they used copper tape and diodes, and closing the circuits. 

“So Dr. Karolewics loved it and called Wes Rakestraw from Wallace and Dean (Jimmy) Hodges, so they came yesterday and visited. And then Dr. Karolewics also wanted Lee Meadows, who is the Director of the Alabama STEM Council, to come and visit and see. So he came today and visited. 

“And so, they were working with pulleys and levers, and wheels and axles, and that’s what they’ve been learning about. And so, today they made cars and they talked about friction and force.” 

The children built their cars from recycled materials commonly available around their homes. 

Cullman County Schools Special Projects Coordinator Dr. T.J. Franey said, “Mrs. Kristi Barnette and the students at Good Hope Primary were able to demonstrate a lesson from the STEAM Lab with Dr. Lee Meadows of the newly established Alabama STEM Council. What an honor it was for our students to talk with Dr. Meadows and discuss why we all need axles and wheels.” 

In keeping with the county system’s “E5” theme, Franey called it “A discovering STEAM lesson where students engage, explore, explain, elaborate and evaluate science concepts,” adding, “Thank you, Dr. Meadows for visiting Cullman County and for being a part of our STEAM Lab lesson!” 

Making STEAM part of life 

“It’s so much fun and the kids love it,” said Cupp. “One of the things I love about it is it levels the playing field for all our children. And so, when they go in there, it’s a risk-free environment, and they have fun, and it’s hands-on and they’re engaged. It’s what learning is all about. And it incorporated math and science, and engineering, and reading and just all kinds of things. Ms. Barnette does a great job.” 

Of the school’s young scientists and engineers, Cupp added, “They don’t give up. Regardless of their home language that they speak, or their disability that they may have, every child participates, and they do a great job. And so, it’s just so fun. 

“And the kids, if they have to check out, they get upset at their parents: ‘No, I don’t want to miss STEAM Lab!’ What I tell people is, when we’ve been out for weather or whatever, a lot of the kids will do their own STEAM activity at home. And some of the parents have shared with me that for Christmas, instead of getting gaming items or whatever, they wanted a science kit or a microscope kit, or something like that. 

“My assistant principal has two daughters at my school and, when they first started, they thought, ‘Well, I want to be a nurse or a teacher,’ you know, being a female. And now, they want to be an engineer, but they’re trying to decide which one because Ms. Barnette’s taught them about the different types of engineers. So it’s really opening the door for children to learn that it doesn’t matter if you’re male or female, there’s lots of opportunities for you out there besides just the traditional jobs that we all think of.” 

Alabama STEM Council Interim Executive Director Lee Meadows takes a look at what students are doing in Good Hope Primary School’s STEAM Lab Thursday morning. (Photo courtesy of Tonya Cupp) 

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W.C. Mann