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Normandy Joins Forces with Parkway, Transforms Enrichment Program into ‘STEM Saturdays’

NORMANDY, MO -- What began three years ago as a way to help improve student achievement districtwide has morphed into a fun supplemental activity for students in the Normandy Schools Collaborative.

     Formerly known as the Normandy Saturday Learning Lab, the six-week program each spring and fall has been renamed and re-imagined. It’s now called STEM Saturdays and immerses students in grades three through eight in three hours of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). The new and improved program is voluntary and runs from Feb. 2 to March 9.

     Dr. Mia Carpenter, who has been working in the program for the last three years, said the new focus allows students to see how STEM disciplines are used to create everything from video games and search-and-rescue operations to buildings that can withstand nature’s fury.

     “We wanted it to be experiences kids wouldn’t normally get in a classroom, at least right now,” said Carpenter, the district’s math coordinator. “This is more enrichment. They’re going to learn something, but this is just a way of tapping in to what our students are good at, and kids are really good at technology.”

     The Saturday Learning Lab program began in 2015 as an effort to increase student achievement in mathematics, English, and reading.

     But, over time, participation in Saturday Learning Labs began to wane because students viewed it as an extension of regular school. That was when Carpenter and others devised a way to reboot the program.

     As a math coordinator, Carpenter attends monthly professional meetings with educators from other districts, and made a connection with Jennifer Abdel-Azim and Jennifer Proffitt, math coordinators at Parkway School District. Over time, they brainstormed ways to increase STEM education within Normandy and forged a partnership to make it happen. They also received support from both school’s Curriculum & Instruction departments.

     The result is STEM Saturdays.

     During the spring installment, 100 Normandy students and 100 from Parkway will collaborate on different problem-solving activities while getting to know each other. During their exercises, they’ll work primarily with Spiro drones and Ozobots, or robots that can be coded to follow different commands.

      The Feb. 23 installment will take students to a Game-a-thon and, on March 2, they will participate in STEM Fest in the Parkway School District. Twelve teachers from Normandy and 12 from Parkway will act as facilitators as students learn to collaborate on mutual goals. The student-teacher ratio throughout will be eight to 10 students per teacher.

      “We are really stretching,” Carpenter said. “We want to make sure kids experience a design challenge using the engineering process. We also want them to be able to code and control robots.”

      In a Montessori-like approach, students in different grades will be placed in teams – grades three through five, and six through eight. Carpenter said this will allow the leaders, thinkers and doers to emerge based on their personalities and interests.

     Ultimately, the goal is to open the program to younger and older students.

     “This is something we really want to build and grow,” Carpenter said.

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STEM Saturdays

Feb. 2 – STEM Saturday launch

Feb. 9 – Normandy at Parkway

Feb. 16 – Parkway at Normandy (Lucas Crossing Elementary)

Feb. 23 – Game-a-thon (place TBA)

March 2 – STEM Fest at Parkway

March 9 – “Read with Me” at Barack Obama Elementary


CAPTION: Students from Normandy Schools Collaborative and Parkway School District gather in the ring at Parkway Central High School to release robots they have programmed using coding. The students are participating in STEM Saturdays, a six-week program that is the result of an ongoing partnership with both school districts. 


Editor's Note: The St. Louis Post-Dispatch also covered this for a front page story that ran Monday, Feb. 11, 2019. Click here for more: