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Open house to showcase new STEM program at school

By Staff | Nov 8, 2019


A newly enhanced program at The Sanibel School aims to add the letters S-T-E-M to the traditional three R’s of education.

On Nov. 18 at 8:30 a.m., the school will hold a Community Open House showcasing its STEM – Science, Technology, Engineering and Math – program. The educational program was made possible thanks to donations to the Sanibel School Fund from individuals and businesses across the islands.

The open house will provide a chance for students, teachers and administrators to show their appreciation for the support and provide the community a chance to see the donations in action.

“SSF works in the community to raise funds for school programs and services that are not supported through the school’s operating budget,” Sanibel School Fund President Jeff Muddell said.

The STEM class encourages students to increase their critical thinking and problem solving skills through a hands-on approach, to work cooperatively and to see that there can be many solutions to one given situation.


“We already had a wonderful arts program here when I arrived, along with a sports program. STEM was the missing piece,” Principal Charles Vilardi said. “We have hit an entire new group of students who love gaming, coding and the sciences. I am in awe watching our students in this class.”

The new STEM teacher, Kelly Johnson, has set goals for students to learn to apply their knowledge of science and math and to expose them to working with their hands and using tools. Many volunteers, including Sanibel’s firefighters, have come to the class to help students with their engineering projects.

“The excitement that I see on the students’ faces during their first project is always one of my favorite moments,” she said.

Johnson has been working with the students on a variety of innovative and exciting projects. Middle-school students have built hydraulic robotic arms, hydraulic draw bridges and “paper circuitry” projects to demonstrate parallel circuits. They also have created functioning Remotely Operated Vehicles or ROVs, sponsored by the U.S. Navy’s SeaPerch Program, and tested the ROVs in the pool at the Sanibel Recreation Center. Elementary students have built towers, bridges, catapults, mousetrap race cars and “bug” robots.

Muddell and the Sanibel School Fund board, made up of school family members, hope more of the island community will get involved in the award-winning institution right in their neighborhood.

“It is a unique public K-8 school and, as such, it warrants the support and advocacy of all Sanibel and Captiva residents and businesses,” he said. “We want to bring more members of the community into the school so that we can stress its importance to life on the islands and, in turn, raise some financial support to keep strengthening this amazing place.”

The open house will include an introduction to Johnson and an observation of several STEM experiments and projects in the classroom environment. Vilardi will provide an update about the school and there will be a chance to sign up for the annual Blue Ribbon Classic Golf Tournament.

All members of the community are invited to attend.

For more information or to RSVP, email TheSanibelSchoolFund@gmail.com.