‘We are inclusive. These are all our students’; Direct Instruction students sharpen STEM skills

SPOKANE, Wash. — Many middle schoolers broaden their horizons by trying new activities and experimenting with unique opportunities. It’s a great age to discover, but not all students have the same opportunities, especially if they may learn in a unique way or have different abilities. One local teacher is expanding the STEM curriculum to better serve students.

“We are inclusive. These are all our students,” said Danelle Elder, a Project Lead the Way teacher at Chase Middle School. “These are all our kids and so they get the curriculum.”

She teaches career, technology and engineering classes right across the hallway from the direct instruction students and wanted those students to have the same opportunities to learn. She’s created a curriculum with tiny robots, called Ozobots, which teach students science, technology, coding and engineering skills. Her medical detective students were showing off the bots, and she knew the curriculum could be used with other students.

“I don’t want my kids just showing the DI [direct instruction] students this,” Elder said. “I want them to do it, and that’s how we got here.”

She says she saw their faces light up and knew they could problem solve and discover with the robots, too.

“Their abilities are wide, diverse and deep. Sometimes we don’t think about that in the same regard,” Elder said. “This is a bit of an underserved population, and they are absolutely able to code. They’re able to figure out Ozobots and can do certain things.”

In the class, students pave their own path of discovery, and it’s something they’ve enjoyed getting to learn.

“I felt really enthusiastic for them. I did,” said Aidan Lamont, 15, a student at Chase Middle School. Elder wants these students to learn about technology and not be afraid to use it. She’s hopeful they can take these problem-solving skills into their futures.

“My hope is that they would be able to problem solve at their ability level,” she said.

Her sister, Jill, is also teaching the Ozobot curriculum at Spokane Public Montessori. This summer, the Elder sisters will train more teachers about the bots and hope the all-inclusive curriculm can spread to other classrooms.