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  • Southeast showcases tech curriculum and programs

  • A number of factors have worked together to help the USD 247 Southeast school district become a national leader in technology. People within the district have spent the past year ...
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  • A number of factors have worked together to help the USD 247 Southeast school district become a national leader in technology.

    People within the district have spent the past year getting comfortable with the curriculum, and showcased it Thursday evening during an open house event.

    “They’ve been hearing a lot about it and this let’s them see it in action,” said Glenn Fortmayer, superintendent of USD 247.

    He said the curriculum is known as STEM, for science, technology, engineering and mathematics, and the open house was an opportunity to raise public awareness.

    Fortmayer said the district formed a partnership with PITSCO through the help of a grant from the Pritchett Foundation at the beginning of the year, and also have worked with the United States Air Force Civil Air Patrol Auxiliary squadron, which offers intensive technological training.

    A 21st Century Grant also made possible the purchase of two robots , which will allow students at the high school to learn programming and will aid in teaching younger students.

    Fortmayer said the goal is to prepare students for some of the highest-paying and most in-demand jobs.

    It also helps bring the fields out of the theoretical and into the relevant.

    Fortmayer said the curriculum features real stories and life application problems, which the students solve using the instruction available. They then apply the solutions in a science center in a real-life context.

    Students said this is helpful. 

    Daniel Sahr, age 14, is homeschooled, but does Civil Air Patrol coursework at Southeast  with an eye toward potentially joining the United States Air Force.

    He said the robotics part of the curriculum has been interesting as he learns how to build a robot and also has gotten to know how vehicles work through his robotics experience.

    He said the curriculum books are very in-depth and helpful.

    “These books are 48 pages long, and it takes me a week to read them,” Sahr said.

    Page 2 of 3 - Jerry Poe has been teaching at Southeast since November as part of the Civil Air Patrol program and said there is a lot of information within the books, and there are even more ways to apply it.

    He said he has been doing rocket work with students, and will work with high schoolers to program a robot next year. 

    Taylor Beckley, age 13, said this is his second year in STEM classes.

    “Right now in class we’re trying to have a contest to see who can launch a two-liter,” he said.

    Poe said it is always better when students can do hands-on projects.

    Fortmayer said it hasn’t always been easy on the teachers.

    “Our teachers have had to take on a lot of change in the last couple of years,” he said, adding that they have seen positive results in the end.

    He said the endeavor required massive amounts of new planning and preparation.

    “They deserve a pat on the back,” he said. “They’ve accomplished a lot of things with the kids.”

    “This is our chance to show off our teachers to the public.”

    Fortmayer said PITSCO research shows that USD 247 is the only district in the nation to commit to STEM curriculum to this level, and he said the district will be applying for formal recognition as a leader within education.

    This is a big deal for the district.

    “Our district is a very small, very poor district,” Fortmayer said. “Our board has had to make some tough calls.”

    But, he said it was worth it to work with a local leader.

    “They worked with us as a demonstration district,” he said, adding that partnerships helped make it an affordable option.

    “They are so supportive and our staff just loves them and the support and development we get from them,” Fortmayer said of PITSCO.

    Page 3 of 3 - He also said this and other opportunities in the region place the students and future leaders in the field.

    “Southeast Kansas has a lot of kids who are competitive on a global basis,” Fortmayer said.
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