Even though renovations are still underway at the FLEDGE Innovate classroom at Newton High School, students enrolled in the class are already getting to work. The class, which aims to connect high school students with local businesses is new last year, thanks in part due to a $25,000 STEM BEST grant the high school received last year.
STEM, which stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics is a tool that school districts around the country are using to raise awareness about the importance of promoting competitiveness in science and technology development. NHS was one of 19 schools selected for the grant out of a pool of 31 schools. While work in the classroom is still ongoing, NHS teacher Justin Liston pointed out one new feature that will set the classroom apart from others in the high school — the window.
The window will allow students who aren’t part of the class to catch a glimpse of the projects their classmates are working on, something Liston said will help encourage juniors and seniors at the high school to sign up for the program.
“This room will be the catalyst of making this a bigger thing,” Liston said.
Senior Zach Combs, one of the students enrolled in the class this year, said the program has already been creating a buzz at the high school. A combination of a traditional business class mixed with hands-on experience, students will have an opportunity at the end of the semester to earn college credit for the class from the University of Iowa. Other students have asked him about the class and expressed an interest in signing up. Combs said the window will give his fellow students a chance to see firsthand the projects students are on working on the FLEDGE classroom.
“When that room is done a lot of people are going to see through that window,” Combs said.
This semester students have already started on several projects within the Newton community. They’ve partnered with the Newton Health Care Center, a nursing home located just north of the high school’s campus. After meeting with the nursing home council, they’ve started to work on a project aimed at transforming the nursing home’s outdoor greenspace. Working with a budget of $1,000 the students plan to install new outdoor furniture and add new flowers and landscaping to the site.
“We’re just going to kind of freshen up the whole outdoor space,” Combs said. “At the residents' council meeting they told our guys what they’d like to see.”
Working in teams of five, the nursing home will have a chance to hear pitches from each student group. Once the nursing home settles on a final design, students will install the new outdoor furniture and landscaping elements during a service day. The two teams have reached out to other students at the high school as well, meeting with students in horticulture classes to select plants for the outdoor greenspace, a move that Liston said broadens the scope of the class.
“They might not be experts in certain areas, but we can pull from other parts of the school and use their students also,” Liston said.
Senior Jaclyn Michener said while being a part of the pilot program can feel like being a “guinea pig” at times, she’s enjoyed the challenges the class has brought. It’s exciting to have local businesses bring projects to the class and she’s relishing the chance to be a part of important decisions in the community. Last month month the students met with other community stakeholders to discuss the future of the Newton DMACC’s greenspace, and Michener enjoyed having a seat at the table.
“It’s a change, mostly we’ve been taught in the classroom, but now we get to give our input to adults,” Michener said. “It was kind of intimidating at first, but it was a really good time.”
FLEDGE students have also met with DMACC officials to work on proposals aimed at helping DMACC fill the office space in the Maytag campus. Liston said he’s been impressed by the maturity students have exhibited in the classroom, and he’s been thrilled to listen to some of the discussions that have taken place, a sentiment echoed by Combs.
“We’ve had a lot of really good discussions during class time,” Combs said. “It’s a lot more real world type stuff, we learn by doing some of the things.”
Contact David Dolmage at 641-792-3121 ext. 6532 or firstname.lastname@example.org