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Radford puts new emphasis on STEM, from pre-k through high school

City school system added STEM labs to all schools over the summer

RADFORD – Radford is putting new emphasis on STEM learning, all the way from pre-k through high school.

"I like the library and the tinker tank," said Gia Pugliese, a second grader working in the new Tinker Tank at McHarg Elementary School in Radford. "We get to have fun together."

Students put on a puppet show as part of STEM learning.
Students put on a puppet show as part of STEM learning.

The class has been learning while putting together a puppet show.

"They need to be able to get along with each other, to problem solve, to think outside the box of things. It's not a factory typesetting anymore where we're just doing the assigned task and everybody's in rows. We need to be effective communicators and be able to get along," said Blenna Patterson, the STEM and Ed tech specialist.

Patterson teaches in a classroom filled with dry erase table tops, green screens, a 3D printer, robots and more. She is focusing on communication, creativity, citizenship, collaboration and critical thinking.

"We all have certain kids in our room that are struggling to get along, struggling to make those connections with other kids and when you finally see one of them do that it's just so exciting," said Patterson.

McHarg Elementary School made over an old computer lab into the Tinker Tank.
McHarg Elementary School made over an old computer lab into the Tinker Tank.

Last year the Tinker Tank was a simple computer lab transformed over the summer. The skills learned in pre-K through middle school are really important as students go into high school

"It's very very exciting. When we come in here and watch the students at Mcharg, Belle Heth, Dalton or Radford High School they are so engaged and it looks fun. When you can learn and have fun you're winning," said Rob Graham, Radford City Schools Superintendent.

Patterson says the skills they're learning early about listening will pay off as they get older.

"You should be looking at the person that's talking and thinking about what they're saying," said Allie Mayer, a McHarg 2nd grader.

Graham says every school now has STEM activities, with the end goal of building a Center of Innovative Teaching and Learning at the high school in the next five years.