Paul Knox Middle School students will now have the chance to dissect owl eggs, learn about machinery and have hands-on education experiences.
The school is the home of a new synergistic lab, which had its ribbon cutting on Thursday.
The North Augusta Chamber of Commerce was on hand for the event, along with Dr. Beth Everitt, superintendent of Aiken County Public Schools; Dr. Liz Stewart, chair of Public Education Partners; and Dwayne Wilson, president and CEO of Savannah River Nuclear Solutions.
“The kids actually get to go from textbook theory to reality, hands-on experiences,” said Kyle Smith, principal of Paul Knox Middle School. “There are different modules in the class, and they will go from math and computer skills to science skills. It is step-by-step, so it makes you think about the next step you have to take, and it's a process. The kids get so engrossed with it, and they get upset when it's time to start another class period.”
Wilson also took a moment to speak, as Savannah River Nuclear Solutions donated one of the modules. He also sat with one of the eighth-grade students, Amon Parson, who was working at the company's module.
“I just look at their eyes, and I look at how he responded and how excited he was to listen to the instruction on the screen and follow through and mechanically make a device work,” Wilson said. “That was really exciting for me – and truly that is all it was – just his excitement. Hopefully that will lead him into further STEM education, and, maybe one day, he will be an engineer or mathematician where he can use that skill.”
Other sponsors also included Ray and Lyn Fleming, Honeywell, Bridgestone Americas, the City of North Augusta, Savannah River Remediation, Paul Knox Middle School PTO and AT&T.
“It never gets old,” Everitt said of seeing the excitement from the students. “Every time we open a lab, they are updated. So Paul Knox has the most up-to-date tools available. That's more exciting – it's the hot-off-the-press modules for our kids to be engaged with. What's really exciting for us is that the businesses and industries have really bought in to make this happen.”
As a partner in making this happen, Stewart and her organization, Public Education Partners, also felt this was a strong partnership.
“When a student makes that connection between the processes we use to teach them and the knowledge we want them to get, and they figure out how to use it, it's really special,” she said. “That's what's important about the labs. They're not just learning facts, they're learning how to use the information. That's the real value to me, and I love to watch them put on their lab coats ... it's great fun. I think we all learn better when we have a good time.”
Scott Rodgers is the news editor at the North Augusta Star and has been with the paper since January 2013 after previously working at the Aiken Standard.
He is a graduate of Alvernia University and currently attends Drexel University.