WARSAW — Today’s students have opportunities in classrooms simply not existing even 10 years ago. To illustrate the point, even first-graders can be introduced to programming robots.
A typical classroom in a school is not what it was a generation ago. Patrick Hazelton, one of three STEM instructional coaches for Warsaw Community Schools, sees this everyday.
A 2010 graduate of West Noble High School in Ligonier, Hazelton went on to Manchester University to earn a degree in elementary education, minoring in special education mild intervention, graduating in 2014.
He then was interviewed in a mock interview at Manchester’s pharmacy school in Fort Wayne. Ironically, the interview was conducted by Dr. David Hoffert, superintendent of WCS. “(At the time) I did not know who he was,” Hazelton said.
This eventually led to a connection and real interview at Washington STEM Academy in WCS. He was offered a job teaching sixth grade at Washington STEM and accepted. Beginning with the 2014-15 school year, he taught the next four years at Washington.
Being immersed in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) principles opened a door of opportunity for Hazelton to become an instructional coach. WCS partners with Zimmer Biomet in a STEM program and money was set aside for additional STEM instructional coaches.
So when the current school year began in August, Hazelton found himself going to Jefferson Elementary and Claypool Elementary for two days each week and to Lincoln Elementary for one day. He is, as he said, “in the pursuit to get STEM off the ground” in Warsaw elementary schools.
“I felt like it was a good fit for me,” he said.
He has brought his teaching background in order to try to get other schools STEM certified through the state. Presently Washington STEM is the only school certified within the Warsaw district. “It is a work in progress,” he commented, and involves a detailed state application process.
Hazelton works daily with kindergarten through sixth grade teachers in the three schools. “I help them develop an understanding (of STEM principles), and then execute a plan for their classroom,” he said.
Overall, the objective is to intermix STEM with other subjects so multiple subjects are involved within one project. “It blends together,” he noted, and in some ways is considered project based learning.
“This is a new, different kind of concept of teaching,” Hazelton said, and is not the traditional classroom setting. Students collaborate and work together in groups.
“They have an ideal, formulate the ideal, put it together and then learn from their mistakes,” he said. STEM is being emphasized so students will have 21st century skills for the jobs of tomorrow.
One example is fifth-graders doing the “Journey North” project. It involves each student getting two tulip bulbs and finding the mass and circumference of each bulb. Students then develop a slide show with photos of their bulbs, plant the bulbs in test gardens and report the results.
They check the temperature, the amount of precipitation received and soil conditions in the gardens and will track growth in the spring. Math and data principles are part of the project.
Hazelton said a “big fire” of his is “inspiring kids and awakening their ideas” and he enjoys being able to go to three different buildings each week.
Outside of school, Patrick enjoys family time with his wife, Michelle, and their 3-year-old son Braxton. Another child is due in February. The family lives in Warsaw.
Patrick, who played golf during all four years of high school, still enjoys the game. He also enjoys doing yard work, noting he once had a landscaping job in high school.