At Plainfield Schools, we place a high priority on STEM - Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics - and our teachers consistently rise to the challenge. They are integrating STEM into classroom activities that one might not otherwise think of, utilizing one or more of these topics to better prepare our students for the future, along with developing creative and differentiated learning experiences. 

Three of our teachers with a passion for STEM partnered together to create “YaySTEM!” which shines a spotlight on how students in different grade levels are utilizing these principles on a daily basis. YaySTEM! is partnering with Keep Indiana Learning, where they’ll present 30-minute STEM livestreams for educators, hopefully giving them ideas on how to incorporate STEM into every classroom. 

Elaine Townsend is a high school teacher who teaches Project Lead The Way classes, specifically Human Body Systems and Principles of Biomedical Sciences. Dayna Cade is a first grade teacher at Clarks Creek Elementary, while Karisa Schwanekamp teaches fourth grade at Guilford Elementary. These three teachers were generous enough to answer some questions about YaySTEM! and where they envision it heading. 

Q: Talk a little bit about the genesis of YaySTEM! How did you decide to start this group/Instagram page?

KS: It was honestly after our summer retreat in Brown County. I had done some work with Keep Indiana Learning, so I reached out to my contact there and pitched the idea for Dayna, Elaine and myself to contract with them to do a STEM livestream. They loved our slide deck from retreat and agreed to meet. We branded ourselves YaySTEM! based on our passion for bringing STEM to ALL learners! We are on Twitter and Instagram and have committed to one livestream a month during the school year with a final in person workshop during the summer at Keep IN Learning’s headquarters.

DC: YaySTEM! has been a little like the "If You Give a Mouse a Cookie" story. One thing has led to another, that then caused another. I believe all three of us have continued to look outside the box for new tools and ways to build on what we have done the years prior. We are also blessed to have a school system that gives additional training in areas like STEM to motivate their teachers. Over six years ago, Elaine and I met at our district's retreat. We connected right away and began brainstorming ways for HS students to connect with the elementary. So we decided to have the HOSA group teach STEM based lessons to our first graders at CC after their school day and before ours ended. We still continue this partnership. Karisa and I have known each other since she was a student teacher then I was able to have 3 of her four children in my first grade classroom. Last year, Elaine's son had Karisa as his teacher, and Elaine was impressed by the way she used project-based learning to drive her classroom. Our passion for STEM then led all three of us to be chosen to be on the district STEM committee, where we helped plan the 2022 Brown County Retreat and decided to give a K-12 presentation on STEM together. After the retreat, Karisa sent our presentation to someone she knew from Keep Indiana Learning. The KIL representative helped us with a name and asked us if we would like to do a series of live streams. At that point we started to realize we may have something to share with others and that we needed to jump on social media if we were going to continue to add to our toolbox.

What are you currently using YaySTEM! for?

KS: We want to spread the word about integrating STEM education at ALL levels for ALL learners. Keep Indiana Learning has been kind enough to give us the platform to do just that.

DC: Karisa, Elaine and I would like to inspire others to find the joy in teaching by integrating STEM and making connections beyond the walls of the classroom. Our trio is also using YaySTEM! to make additional connections and learn from others.

In a perfect world, where do you see YaySTEM! going? 

KS: We would love to continue this journey and grow our audience. Our passion is sharing with others while continuing to be lifelong learners.

DC: The hope is to be the beginning and/or the voice for others as well. We are crossing our fingers that other educators will start to share their ideas with us so we can share the ideas with others and grow ourselves.

Be sure to follow them on Instagram @yaystem (https://www.instagram.com/yays...)