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Oak Ridge Elementary receives 2020 STEM Innovation Award

Oak Ridge Elementary School of Leadership, Environmental and Health Sciences in Eagan received the 2020 STEM Innovation Award for its efforts to increase students’ access to unique educational opportunities grounded in innovation and creativity. 

A young boy smiles as he shows off his STEM TO GO kit.

The award is presented annually by the Minnesota Elementary School Principals’ Association (MESPA) and Science Museum of Minnesota. This is the second year in a row that a District 196 elementary school received the award; Woodland Elementary in Eagan won in 2019.

“We are passionate about actively supporting and growing STEM experiences at all levels,” said Oak Ridge Principal Cathy Kindem. “Hands-on learning with real-world applications helps develop a variety of skill sets, including creativity, critical thinking and entrepreneurship.” The goal, Kindem said, is to “develop innovative minds with the potential to change the world.”

Oak Ridge recently implemented “STEM to GO!” kits that students take home to tinker with kid-friendly science, technology, engineering and math projects and experiments. Students keep the kits at home for a week, giving them time to experience hands-on learning in space exploration, loom knitting, robotics and more.

“We are very excited and honored to be recognized,” said Oak Ridge STEM Specialist Tanner Walters. “We’re helping prepare future world changers by developing skills and knowledge they will need to make a difference.”

Using the school’s leadership, environmental and health sciences magnet themes as the foundation for lessons and coursework, Oak Ridge teachers expose students to real-world scenarios and challenge them to create out-of-the-box solutions. Third-grade students have learned about circuitry and designed their own constellations. Fourth-grade students dive into hydrology by testing pond water. And in fifth grade, students explore ecosystems on the school campus and learn to code EV3 robots that sort recyclable and non-recyclable waste in their art class.

Oak Ridge is one of five elementary magnet schools in District 196. Magnet school enrollment is determined by lottery. All students in District 196 and students who open enroll into District 196 can apply for the magnet school lottery. For more enrollment information, contact Karla Bisco, Teacher on Special Assignment, at Karla.Bisco@district196.org or call the office at 651-683-6970.

Students show off a display of various STEM TO GO kits available at Oak Ridge.