Maple School is offering a special program that is giving its students a head start in preparing them for possible careers in the engineering and mechanical fields, by participating in Chevron's Project Lead the Way program. This program has been helping Shafter High students get prepared for technical careers as they learn all aspects of the challenging fields in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) areas of learning.
At Maple, Jan Cranfill is heading up the program, which is open currently to first through eighth grades, with different areas of study each grade level. "We are preparing to offer the program to students who are TK and Kindergarten, hopefully by as early as next year," said Cranfill.
The program is funded by grants from Chevron, who provides the kits needed for the studies, as well as the training needed for the teachers to get certified to teach the courses. "For additional supplies, equipment and special requirements, if needed, are being picked up by the school."
The different modules are typically two or three month projects, in which the students have a specific problem that is put in front of them, much like a science project for a typical science fair, with a question, hypothesis, investigation, testing, and conclusions.
For example, the first graders are currently learning about animal adaptations, with the students asking themselves why certain animals have different types of beaks, claws, and body make-up in which to eat. "We have them test what type of claws are better equipped to pick up food, how efficient they are in gathering the food, etc...." commented Cranfill. After testing the theories with tools, such as tweezers as a beak, or a spoon, and a clothespin, the students note their findings on what tool is most efficient in picking up food. "They have the opportunity to test their theories and then explain their findings when they complete their investigations. It teaches them problem-solving, writing skills, as well as public speaking and analytical thinking," concluded Cranfill.
The projects get progressively more challenging as the grades get higher, with 6th through eighth graders currently working on robotics. They are building their own vehicles, made with gears that move, and projects that can be controlled by the students. This program also helps students in all aspects of their educational experience, with the skills taught, such as being inquisitive, thinking about problems on their own, as well as getting proficient in writing and speaking skills. "I love this program," said eighth grader Bryson Wheeler, who had just completed his vehicle, which was a moving vehicle that was hauling a Christmas tree. All of the gears on the project moved and rotated to make the vehicle operate. "I have been in the program for years and it has helped me learn so much," said Wheeler. Wheeler will be entering Wasco High next year and is looking forward to continuing his engineering learning going into their Mechanics programs.
"We are actually doing a lot of similar projects that the students at Shafter High School are doing," said Cranfill. "Our program will prepare our students for the Project Lead the Way program that is operating at Shafter High, giving them a head start in the high school program, not starting from scratch," said Cranfill.
The Project Lead the Way program is taught by Cranfill for students in grades first through fifth as regular classes. When they enter the sixth grade, those students who are interested in continuing the program can enroll in the program as an elective. "It gives those students who are interested in pursuing this line of learning to continue them all the way through the eighth grade, getting them ready for the high school program."
Maple School also has an Agricultural program offered for students interested in pursuing careers in that field as well, which will be featured in a future issue of the Shafter Press.
"With the scope of learning becoming so diverse, the different programs give our students so much more opportunity to learning skills that will not only help them in their educational careers, but also for their futures after school, entering the workforce," Cranfill said.