Students at Troup County Schools Discover a New World of Possibilities Through AWIM
As a fifth-grade science teacher, there’s nothing more exciting than seeing a struggling student have their first “Aha moment” in STEM.
That’s what Troup County School District teacher Sara Proctor experienced as her students tackled SAE International’s A World In Motion® (AWIM®) Straw Rocket and JetToy Challenges.
Since 2012, Kia Georgia and the SAE Foundation have worked together to bring hands-on STEM learning to students in Kia communities in Georgia and Alabama through the AWIM program. Through this successful partnership that has reached over 90,000, students, Troup County Schools have access to the AWIM program. The AWIM JetToy Challenge has evolved into an afterschool club that culminates in a regional competition, supported by Kia Georgia funding and volunteers.
The AWIM JetToy after-school program has grown in popularity to the point where students must apply to join the club. Across the district, more than half of the fifth grade student population applies to be a part of the program. Students utilize their literacy skills and develop self-awareness as they are tasked with crafting an essay explaining why they want to join the program and what they bring to the table.
Because of the financial support of Kia Georgia, the school district is able to provide students with transportation to and from the program increasing accessibility and inclusion for participants. Kia also has a strong volunteer presence in all elementary schools in the district. Not only do volunteers support the competitions, but they show students how to take what they learn from the JetToy challenge and apply it to areas outside the classroom and in potential careers.
Students learn valuable skills they can utilize inside and out of the classroom like problem-solving, literacy, critical thinking, and more. Problem solving became an important piece for these students. Rather than getting upset that something didn’t go right, students worked as a team. Sara was blown away by the high-level conversations these fifth graders were having.
For Sara, the most rewarding part of this experience was witnessing a student who struggled with the standard core curriculum thrive in this new hands-on way of learning. “Within the first days of the AWIM Straw Rocket challenge, the student had an incredible grasp over how to manipulate the resources given to produce the best rocket. There was a light and excitement to participating that I hadn’t really seen before. It made me happy to see how confident they felt so early in the design process.”
The student gained a level of confidence after discovering the results of the competition. “This confidence not only led to the student winning our distance launch competition, but also gave that student the opportunity to help and teach others. When all was said and done, this student beat the entire fifth grade in the distance competition! All the other fifth graders rallied behind this student and celebrated their success. It was something truly special to be a part of.”
The AWIM program allows students who aren’t successful in the traditional classroom setting to thrive in small group settings. These AWIM challenges reach ESL students, neuro-divergent students, and those with behavioral or learning disabilities in a way that traditional classroom learning cannot.
Beyond learning, students develop a sense of pride and confidence showing them that they are capable of learning STEM. The unofficial motto for Troup County School District is “a place for every kid,” which could not be more accurate. When teachers like Sara are able to integrate hands-on STEM programming like JetToy, students’ minds are opened to a whole new world of possibilities.