Community News |Feb 7, 2023|3 min read

Muskegon, MI – Students at Muskegon Public Schools (MPS) are learning about science and technology in a new, next-generation STEAM lab that opened this week at Bunker Elementary school. The STEAM lab features alignment to state and national curriculum standards in science, mathematics, technology and English Language Arts, and hosts over 400 lessons that include digital animation, circuitry, robotic coding, use of data sensors, and simple machines. This is the first of three elementary school STEAM labs planned for the district.


“Research shows the best way to increase STEAM learning and interest while creating equity in math and science achievement is through an immersive, project-based, hands-on environment. In 2020, our community voted on their belief in a brighter future for MPS by passing two bonds, making labs like this a possibility,” stated MPS Superintendent Matthew Cortez. “Launching our Bunker STEAM lab is a huge milestone in transforming MPS into a modern and career-focused K-12 educational leader that will be unparalleled in Michigan.”


Elementary students will experience the STEAM modules as part of the K – 5 experience. Elementary students attend encore classes in music, physical education, art and STEAM (formerly technology) daily throughout the school year. Their experience in STEAM is designed to build resilience, encourage teamwork, foster creativity, apply technology, and teach ways to solve problems, all while using grade-level content knowledge.


The Muskegon Public Schools Office of Instructional Services team and classroom teachers visited several area school STEAM labs, including those in Rockford and Bridgman, and considered best-in-class operating labs in other elementary schools as benchmarks. The team selected Smartlab HQ as the vendor for the Bunker STEAM lab and the other two MPS district elementary school STEAM labs that will be installed by Fall 2024 at Oakview Elementary and Marquette Elementary schools.


“I am excited to watch students flourish in this new environment and to teach this new STEAM curriculum that is integrated with a standards-based  math and science curriculum,” said Janell Carr, STEAM teacher at Bunker Elementary. “With an integrated curriculum, students are using critical thinking skills to solve problems while connecting math and science concepts to their learning.”


MPS received federal ESSER funding and decided to utilize these monies to increase student engagement with the STEAM lab. District educators expect the STEAM lab to result in increased student excitement in learning about and solving real-world issues through the students’ experiences in working in teams, practicing resiliency, and applying mathematics, science, art and technology concepts. This STEAM lab in total cost approximately $250,000, which includes construction and installation of the lab, furniture, initial training, curriculum, one year of support, and assessment tools to focus on specific skills. Bond funding allowed for Bunker Elementary building remodel and construction.


“Our business and community partnerships, combined with multiple one-time funding sources, enabled our district’s vision to come alive,” said Cortez. “As we create a truly student-centered educational pathway defined by individual interests and strengths, we begin to reinvest into our community, our economy and our future.”