Learning Blade helps prepare Yellow Creek students for trip

MIDDLESBORO — With seventh graders at Yellow Creek Elementary School looking ahead to a Sept. 26 Toyota trip, Gear Up academic interventionist Brandy Bauer wanted to prepare her students for what they will see at the car manufacturing plant in Georgetown.

Bauer, working with college and career navigators Alexis Phelps and Sabrina Cross and academic interventionist Chelsea Evans, was able to simulate the car creation process through the Learning Blade program sponsored by Gear Up SOAR. The program introduces students to careers, tools and technologies found throughout STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) fields.

The Gear Up educators were able to bring a car plant to Yellow Creek, in a virtual sense, with programs called Intro to Engineering Careers and Manufacturing a Concept Car.

“We’ve learned about the different types of engineering and what engineers do,” said Alexis Sinsabaugh, one of the Yellow Creek students who has thrived under the Learning Blade program.

Conner Jordan is considering a career in engineering and has learned about engineering jobs with Learning Blade.

“I’ve learned what you need to have in college to be an engineer,” added Jordan, who leads the school with 19 lessons completed. “My Papaw was an engineer, so it’s something that interests me.”

“It’s more of a fun way to learn about things instead of going straight to the book,” noted Sinsabaugh. “We are able to work at our own pace.”

Learning Blade is owned and operated by Thinking Media, which assembled a team of accomplished professionals in the STEM, education and technology space that have “tremendous backgrounds and extreme success in achieving results,” according to the Learning Blade Web site. The program is designed to provide engaging resources that will expose students to STEM-related career opportunities and help them develop key skills as they move forward. Learning Blade strives to be an effective resource useful to the entire teaching staff, including language arts, mathematics, social studies and science teachers.

Learning Blade will provide the school a free 3D printer,with the aid of FLASH FORGE USA, once students have completed 5,000 lessons and the Gear Up instructors have made extensive progress on that goal.

“They’ve learned about manufacturing cars and the day in the life of an engineer,” said Bauer. “They love it.”

“They get to choose the program,” said Phelps. “I did a heart surgery lesson with eighth graders and there are lessons on being a nurse that are of interest to several of our students.”

While the Yellow Creek students have focused on engineering and manufacturing of cars recently, the Learning Blade program is popular among students for a variety of reasons

“The thing I like most about Learning Blade is the hack attack lessons,” said Jordan. “It’s pretty fast, even when I’m doing it at home, and it’s easy to use.”

“‘I’ve really enjoyed the heart surgery lessons,” said Abby Keener, who is considering a career in medicine. “

The Gear Up instructors have plans to expand their Learning Blade classes in years to come.

“We hope to re-open our greenhouse and incorporate science lessons,” Cross said. “We have talked about lessons in horticulture and agriculture. There are lessons on entrepreneurship and fresh food, which we hope to implement once we open the greenhouse.”

Gear Up has also been an important resource for students, who receive help from instructors on their classwork as well as looking at college and career possibilities.

“I have really enjoyed working with Gear Up,” Keener said. “They have done many things that have helped and helped me figure out stuff.”

“Gear Up has been great for me,” added SIinsabaugh. “I really enjoy it.”

This approach to STEM education focuses on activities that can be utilized both in a self-paced game environment and as practice in academic classrooms. An interactive tool kit combines multiple components for each mission:

• STEM Skills – each activity is presented in a real-life context which highlights how STEM skills are used in the real world.

• Hands-On Exercises – projects, activities and design thinking problems help students to see the application of STEM to practical problems

• Career Exploration – each activity links to real-life STEM careers and allows the student to explore both the characteristics and demands of various STEM related fields.

• Academic Relevance – each activity exercises specific academic skills and is directly correlated to academic standards, showing students why school matters.