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Principals share the vision, carry out the plan

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If Lancaster ISD were a military organization, the school principals would hold the rank of field general. And the Secretary of Defense – aka, Superintendent Michael McFarland – would not have to worry about implementation of his battle plans. That’s because Cosheda Hurd (sixth-grade learning center), Elijah Granger (middle school), and Joseph Showell (high school) would carry out orders to a T.

That’s what the principals have been doing on the STEM battlefront for the past couple years. A STEM for All district, Lancaster emphasizes the integration of science, technology, engineering, and math at every grade level, K-12. A key part of their plan is six Pitsco Education Module labs – two each at GW Carver Sixth Grade STEM Learning Center, Lancaster Middle School, and Lancaster High School, which also has Pitsco’s Engineering Academy curriculum.

STEM concepts are subtly introduced at the elementary level, and then the Pitsco labs and career exposure become the focus at the sixth-grade center. Hurd believes the Modules give students a glimpse at real careers in a way that utilizes all of their senses and caters to their various learning styles.

“My goal – my need – is to find a way to make the core classrooms more like that. Not the technology part of it necessarily but using all the senses,” Hurd said. “It takes everything that I have to learn. I need to use every sense that I have to learn. The lab makes students more willing to learn that way, and it makes teachers more willing to teach that way.”

When Hurd and her teachers are finished imparting STEM concepts and principles, students move on to the middle school where Granger and his staff take over, preparing them for a pipeline of their choosing when they enter high school: Engineering, Entrepreneurship, Global Arts Communications, Health Science Technology, or Information Systems & Software Design.

“This is a critical time when students really need to get exposed to career opportunities and choices,” Granger said of middle school. “Once they get into high school and especially 10th and 11th grade, it’s really late.”

The Pitsco labs bring balance to the middle-level education equation. “The good thing about it to me is that Pitsco is not core. The kids need something else. We’re providing core, so that’s not what they need. They need to know where they’re going,” Granger said. “We’re teaching you all of this math, science, reading, and social studies because we’re trying to get you somewhere. And now we’re going to provide another vehicle for you to be able to get there.”

At the high school, students delve even deeper into Module exploration, robotics, and engineering in the Pitsco labs. The exciting and engaging topics are like student magnets, according to Showell. “I like when I go in and do my walk-throughs. Students are able to explain their projects, and they’re motivated to complete them,” he said. “They’re learning and it’s fun, and that’s the key. They’re excited about class.”

Despite having to jump into uncharted waters, the principals have happily carried out their marching orders, in part because of the example set by McFarland. “He makes me want to do my job and really put forth effort and work hard because I see how hard he is working and his sincerity,” Granger said. “I think that because of his vision and his passion about making sure our students learn and are exposed – that is the reason why we have such great programs in this district.”