The Journal Gazette
Monday, October 26, 2020 1:00 am

At Irwin, STEM a valued discovery

ASHLEY SLOBODA | The Journal Gazette

When Irwin Elementary School set out to become a STEM school a few years ago, educators quickly realized that doing so wasn't a matter of buying specialized materials. STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and math.

“STEM is not something that you can purchase,” Principal Mary Kinniry recently told the Fort Wayne Community Schools board. “It's not something that is a manual that's handed to you that you teach, but rather it is establishing a culture of learning that focuses on student inquiry and real problem-solving for students.”

However, FWCS a few years ago invested in Discovery Education to enhance the STEM curriculum at Irwin. The district later expanded the contract to include the development of STEM or STEAM curriculum at Whitney Young Early Childhood Center, Weisser Park Elementary School, Memorial Park and Portage middle schools and South Side and Wayne high schools. STEAM includes the arts.

Discovery Education – which is affiliated with the Discovery Channel – offers such resources as video content, textbooks and professional learning, Chief Academic Officer Tracy Reed said.

The partnership has helped Irwin incorporate critical thinking, creativity, collaboration and communication skills into lessons, Kinniry said. “At Irwin,” she said, “our students are empowered to discover the world around them.”

Allison Nather, an instructional coach at Irwin, described a water unit that taught fifth graders about water scarcity and water pollution. Teachers selected the topic because students could come up with solutions they could enact, she added.

STEM and STEAM lessons involve incorporating multiple subjects, such as language arts and math, in one project rather than teaching them in isolation, said Get Nichols, chief of school leadership.

“Learning becomes applicable to their everyday life,” Nichols said, “and they understand that this is the reason why I learn math. This is the reason why science is important. This is the reason why I need to be socially responsible in conserving water, in not polluting our water reserves here in this area.”

Nichols said some FWCS schools are working to become STEM-certified through the Indiana Department of Education. No Allen County schools have earned such a designation, although some in Kosciusko County have, according to the state agency.

“Students in a STEM and STEAM curriculum are very engaged in their learning,” Nichols said. 

Ball State

• Ball State University's Black Alumni Constituent Society named Stacey Jenkins to the board. He owns Crux Conception in Fort Wayne, offering training in psychology, team building and behavioral profiling. He was previously a Fort Wayne police officer.


• DeKalb County Promise's “Walk into My Future” program is going portable because of COVID-19, allowing children to experience careers and personal growth at home through virtual learning or at school during in-person learning. Students in grades K-5 may participate and receive backpacks containing age-appropriate books and activities, including some from local businesses. Donations to the program should be directed to the DeKalb County Community Foundation with Promise on the memo line; P.O. Box 111, Auburn, IN 46706.


• Ivy Tech Community College will host Virtual College 101 at 8 p.m. Nov. 5 and 6. Registration is required at www.ivy Attendees will learn about Ivy Tech's offerings, transfer options and in-demand programs including health care and advanced manufacturing.

Robert Philippi, senior associate commissioner of Conference USA, will speak with Trine University students and the public during a virtual event at 1 p.m. Nov. 4. Along with answering questions, he is expected to address the commitment it takes to work in sports, responsibilities and advice for those wanting to work the industry and how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected college sports. Email Brandon Podgorski, director of the Trine Center for Sports Studies, at for the event link.

Scholarships, grant

• Students have through Jan. 5 to submit their creative work to the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards. Northeast Indiana and northwest Ohio students will participate through the Fort Wayne Museum of Art as a regional affiliate. The program is for ages 13 to 18 and grades 7 and up. In the 2020 program year, more than 2,900 works of art and writing received national recognition, including more than $300,000 in direct scholarships and millions in tuition support. Go to for details.

• New Haven Community Foundation announced the creation of five scholarship funds benefiting New Haven High School seniors upon graduation. The focus areas of the scholarships are STEM, medical/health care, arts/music, demonstrated leadership and the Fritcha Vocational Scholarship. Email the New Haven Community Foundation at info@newhavenfoundation for information. Donations are 100% tax deductible.

Madelyn Zimmerman, 19, of Milford, won the 2021 4-H Youth in Action Pillar Award for Agriculture. Along with receiving a $5,000 scholarship, she will be recognized nationally for her drive to provide agricultural opportunities to at-risk students and youth with disabilities in her community.

• The Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi is accepting applications through Nov. 30 for its graduate research grant and dissertation fellowship award. Go to or for details.

Science Central

• Science Central is offering Science2Go kits for children and adults with special needs through a partnership with the AWS Foundation. November's activities involve designing, building and testing things that fly, float and hover. Teachers, group homes and in-home caregivers can register for these free materials and online programming through Nov. 1 at


Evan Gustin, who most recently served as Trine University's director of student activities, is now assistant dean of student services. Christian Jones will replace Gustin as director of student activities. Jones most recently served as an admission counselor.

• In the newest episode of Trine's Faculty Focus podcast, Melissa Somerville, faculty member in the online RN-to-BSN program, talks about the critical need for diversity in the nursing profession. The podcast is available at, and platforms including Spotify, iTunes, Google Play and Stitcher.

To submit an item, send a typed release from the school or organization to Education Notebook, The Journal Gazette, 600 W. Main St., Fort Wayne, IN 46802; fax 461-8893 or email at least two weeks before the desired publication date.

Students and parents can nominate a favorite teacher for Teacher Honor Roll. Write to The Journal Gazette, 600 W. Main St., Fort Wayne, IN 46802; fax 461-8893 or email

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