Middle school minds start milling
The Ag/Tech Lab at Sparta Meadowview Middle School has a new miniature CNC milling machine sitting among an entire room full of technological advancement bringing Agriculture and Technology Education teacher Steve Schauf’s classroom one step closer to what he calls a real world setting.
Schauf says his goal is to prepare his students for exactly that. He believes in building good communication skills saying good morning to each student individually during role call each morning.
Aside from that, Schauf mostly has a hands-off approach with his students. This year, he implemented the use of Google classroom to the lab where students have access to their lessons from virtually anywhere.
“It’s something I’m really excited about,” he said, adding the students who’ve been invited into the app can use their laptops or chrome books in the classroom or even at home.
Schauf’s students are paired up into teams working together to rotate through each of the tech stations including, material science, robotics and 3D printing by watching introductory videos on Google classroom. As they’re working, they have to come up with 10 questions as they’re working and eventually find the answers.
“They’re being empowered. It’s not a lecture. They go through this together and the learning never stops because then they’ll discover this will work and this won’t,” Schauf explained. “Now you’re going to be able to connect to any type of learner and that’s my huge vision. So it’s just like a real job when we are faced with questions all day long and we find the answers.”
The miniature CNC milling machine can use a variety of different materials including wood, foam, composite material and some softer metals such as aluminum. Depending on the complexity of the design and the type of material, the time spent producing a finished product varies.
The machine was purchased from Haldeman Homme by the generosity of several local businesses including Mathy Construction Company, AMS Micromedical and Mathews Archery, Inc.
“Almost everything we’ve got to fundraise for,” Schauf explained, adding he just started making phone calls. “We’ve got a good community connection with the Tech. Ed. People. That’s part of what we want to do, we want to connect to the real world.”
Schauf says he gets a lot of support from local businesses offering to give students tours of a variety of establishments around Sparta. But he adds that taking the kids on field trips get tricky due to budgets and time constraints.
“Because of our system and the logistics in secondary education, taking them out of classes can create a domino affect because of all the testing and assignments they’ve got to get done,” he said, adding it can sometimes get challenging trying to shift the focus from core classes.
In a world that is now technology based, these new generations of learners entering the workforce are going to need to be educated with this technology as so many employers are currently making huge technological advancements.
“It’s frustrating because we could do so many cool things and we’re on the cusp of something amazing. We’ve got to find a balance but it’s been one way for so long, it’s hard to change,” Schauf explained. “The big thing we have to address are the constraints of our system. People go to the library or librarian as a resource to extend what they’re doing. Why can’t this be perceived and utilized the same way?”
He is trying to work with the core teachers to use the lab similar to a library for project based learning. He explained when the students would come into the tech lab, it would work as an implied language arts class because they have to prepare the questions, do a presentation on what they made and how they made it work.
To the teachers who don’t know anything about the technology, Schauf says, “Good, we don’t want you to come in and lecture about it. We want it to be about the learner. If you come in not knowing anything about it that’s perfect because now, you’re just like the kids. Now some real learning can take place. You’re supposed to have struggles, that’s learning!”