Our little blue dot, the third planet from the sun, has been around an estimated 4.5 billion years. While experts differ on the number, we humans, and our monkey-like ancestors, became a presence here on Earth roughly five to seven million years ago. We are just a small spec on that larger cosmic timeline of the Milky Way.
But with that short time frame in mind, we homo sapiens kicked evolution into overdrive and quickly saw the advantages tools provided us in our early hunter-gatherer years. Shelter, food, water - all things made easier for our ancestors to acquire with the aid of tools.
If you’re wondering where and how this galaxy-based timeline reference brings us back to Lamoille Union Middle School in Hyde Park, Vermont - it’s here, in Lindsay Fletcher’s STEM/STEAM room.
The teaching and learning space is itself a perfect representation of the evolution of the tools we have come to use, and probably overlook, each day. On one side of the room, you’ll see ‘basic’ hand tools: screwdrivers, hand drills, pliers, hammers, speed squares, saws, and more. On the other, laptops running state-of-the-art design and drafting programs.
On Monday, November 13th, this evolution was on display and being celebrated by education leaders.
Lamoille North School leadership, members of the Vermont Agency of Education (AOE), representatives of the Vermont Department of Liquor and Lottery, as well as local legislators Melanie Carpenter and Dan Noyes were on hand to see a new set of machines our students are using.
The Educate Innovate Initiative has been developed through a partnership with the Vermont Lottery and the Vermont Agency of Education. The program seeks to identify schools that can integrate the use of technology into the curriculum to create or further an innovative program that supports the Education Quality Standards.
The program has three important goals -
to further the digital learning capacity of schools in Vermont
to provide technology to a school that can support a new or existing innovative education program
to improve the general public's awareness about the role the Lottery plays in supporting education
“Award opportunities like these are incredibly important,” explained Fletcher, “If we did not have these opportunities to be able to purchase new cutting-edge equipment, it would take a much greater amount of time to be able to budget a purchase like this into our normal operating dollars.”
After being introduced to the Educate Innovate Award opportunity by her Lamoille Union colleague John Moton, the two set out to create and submit a rock-solid application that ultimately netted LUMS and the greater Lamoille Union campus a $15,000 award to purchase the CNC routers.
“Everything we do in the STEM/STEAM room is geared towards getting hands-on. There’s something powerful about talking through a concept, practicing the skills, and putting all of that knowledge to work. Seeing these students take an idea in their minds and bring it into a three-dimensional space is just great,” said Fletcher.
Those exact skills were on display Monday morning as three teams of students demoed the Shaper routers. The students explained how they use an online platform to create their designs in a digital space, taking advantage of the program's ‘preview features’ to catch possible issues in their designs before any cutting begins. With their designs set, they transfer the file from computer to router.
One of the most appealing aspects of these particular routers is their student-friendly design. They feature video game controller-like handles that make moving and ‘steering’ them a breeze. The built-in mistake-avoidance features also help to save students from any possible mishaps in their final products.
“Today [Monday] I saw a teacher excited about what she was doing and being able to realize the outcome of the lessons that she’s prepared and is seeing the tangible ‘ah-ha’ moments as these different ideas click into place for her students,” commented Lisa Helme, State Coordinator of Education Technology at the Vermont Agency of Education and one of the guests on hand to see the award dollars at work.
Many of the projects using the routers start as signs cut to feature words or images and as students gain confidence with the design program and machines, their creations evolve into hanging racks, shelves, props and collectibles, smart device charging stations, and much more.
“Students are learning practical skills - measurements, depth of different router bits, how to lay out their text or images spatially for an aesthetic design, we talk about different types of softwood and hardwood and how stain and paint react to different tree cells,” explained Fletcher.
Being the recipient of a 2023 Educate Innovate Award further enhances Lamoille Union Middle School’s ability to offer 21st-century learning opportunities to our students. Giving the students of Lamoille North a chance to see and experience just one of the many technical careers open to them is an intended bonus.
And hey…we’re happy to take credit for using new technologies and tools like these to be the launching point of the next great evolutionary step in that cosmic, Milky Way timeline.