Barbie Jackson, recipient of the Oklahoma Medal for Excellence in Elementary Teaching, teaches STEAM – Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math – for kindergarten through fifth-grade students at Limestone Technology Academy in Sand Springs. Jackson is passionate about providing students with creative, hands-on learning experiences that go beyond curriculum standards and engage them in solving real-world problems.
“I focus not only on academics, but also on those soft skills needed to be successful in life,” Jackson said. “Students practice those skills when they are able to communicate, present, create, make mistakes, recover from those mistakes, try something different, and think critically about what they need to do next.”
In Jackson’s STEAM Lab, students use the engineering design process in the Maker Space – an area filled with household items, from paper towel tubes and crafting sticks to string and tape – to create prototypes to solve problems. Jackson has also set up a “Breaker Space” with a work bench and hand tools, where students learn to take apart and repair equipment. In addition, Jackson teaches a schoolwide Science of Flight curriculum, engaging students in creative projects involving flying insects, hot air balloons, kites, airplanes, parachutes and 3-D printed rockets.
Among Jackson’s students’ favorite projects is the Monarch Butterfly WayStation, where students help maintain a butterfly garden and then move caterpillars into the STEAM Lab, where they can observe their metamorphosis. In 2022, students tagged and released 52 monarch butterflies and were able to track their migration.
The learning continues after school with three STEM clubs sponsored by Jackson. Drone Club members code and pilot drones through student-designed obstacle courses, while the Brick Buddies collaborate on building a LEGO City. In her Girls Who Code Club, Jackson seeks to close the race and gender gap in STEM fields by providing hands-on computer science projects for girls.
“Mrs. Jackson challenged my daughter to use critical thinking skills and helped her develop perseverance when things didn’t work perfectly the first time.,” said Mandi Cloud, a parent and colleague. “My daughter has carried these skills with her to middle school, where science and math are her favorite subjects.”
Jackson said the future of STEM occupations ranges from what exists now to jobs yet to be discovered. “I want my students to be ready in either case. Early STEM exposure is the key.”