STEM lessons link to real-life applications
After days of measuring decibels in the Indian Run Commons during lunch, students last week got a first-hand look at the sound waves they were measuring.
Kimberly Clavin, Dublin City School's manager of STEM Initiatives, used her experience in mechanical engineering and acoustics to give students a hands-on understanding of sound and how it works.
The lesson in sound waves, amplitude, pitch and frequencies is just one example of Clavin's responsibilities in her new position at Dublin City Schools.
Sandy Siers, an Indian Run gifted intervention specialist, asked Clavin for assistance with a project that has students measuring noise during lunch to find out whether behavioral changes will change the noise level. Students took decibel readings every five minutes, noting changes in the environment such as classes coming and going.
"Kimberly's role was to really help us understand sound," Siers said. "This is coming out of a program called PBIS, Positive Behavior Intervention Systems. I attended a workshop on that earlier this year.
"We're looking to make a change in something by positive interventions. In order to know you made a change, we needed baseline data."
In her lesson, Clavin showed students a sound wave example by passing sound vibrations from a speaker into a horizontal rope.
"They could see the wave jumping, so they can see how acoustic waves work," Clavin said. "It's not an exact replica, but it shows waves ... The biggest thing I focus on is real-life application of the science and visual cues."
"It just really helped them to have an understanding of what they were measuring," Siers said of the lesson.
By going into classrooms, Clavin is working to do more than help students understand abstract ideas. She helps teachers with lesson plans and tries to give students ideas of classes and careers in areas of STEM that interest them. Having held jobs at Honda and OSU, Clavin knows the ropes.
"I come from higher education, so I have this experience in higher education and the industry," she said. "I can prepare kids to be college- and career-ready. I do that by giving them real-life examples and high-energy things and throw in verbiage that gets them interested in the future."
Getting other industry and science experts into classrooms is another focus for Clavin. She's working on putting a committee together to advise on classes and help find classroom visitors to add insight.
"The other thing about a new person is 85 percent more is absorbed (by students) when somebody new is in the classroom," Clavin said.
Establishing a STEM community is also on Clavin's to-do list. She's hoping to ignite student interest in STEM subjects and maintain it, especially among people under-represented in engineering such as minorities and women.
"We lose a lot of students in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) in grades three to six, especially girls, because they lose confidence," Clavin said. "We need to get to them and get into the middle schools to mentor them."
Although Clavin is assisting teachers with STEM learning, she's not coming into the district to change everything.
Meetings have been held with teachers to get suggestions and work out a vision for the district in STEM education.
"Behind the scenes, we're really trying to figure out our vision right now," she said.