Charter school opens
Fremont STEM Academy’s inaugural semester
By James Card
In a newly renovated classroom at the Fremont Elementary School, the whiteboard reads: “Fail, Learn, Try Again, Repeat!”
This is the hands-on experiential approach that 12 students will apply to their self-directed studies at the Fremont STEM Academy.
The inaugural class is composed of eight fifth graders and four sixth graders. Of those students there are eight boys and four girls.
The classroom has six workbench-height tables set on coasters and two smaller works desks. Retractable 50-foot electrical cords are mounted to the ceiling for running power equipment and computers.
There are some smaller desks and a reading lounge is tucked in one corner. There are stand-up racks with bins of school supplies. A new Husky tool cabinet is in another corner and a huge flat screen TV is against one wall.
In an adjoining room are three desktop computer stations (the students have their own Chromebooks) and a Glowforge, a laser printer that can cut, engrave and shape designs in a variety of mediums. Near the door is a clothing rack loaded with boot-foot chest waders. The students will be getting wet this semester.
“We went for a walk to visit a site where we will be doing a field study for the remainder of the year. We will be testing the Wolf River and Partridge Lake waters. We will be testing for temperature, turbidity and dissolved oxygen levels. In the winter months we’re going to test for saltwater,” said Jennifer Steidtman, the school’s lead teacher.
She said students will also do a clean-up on the Waupaca River and they will take a few trips to the Mosquito Hill Nature Center.
“On our second trip, we will see what the kids are interested in. I’m not picking a topic for them. I want them to help guide their own instruction,” said Steidtman.
For the second semester, they will be taking trips to the Experimental Aircraft Association headquarters in Oshkosh.
This is Steidtman’s ninth year teaching in the Weyauwega-Fremont School District. Previously, she has taught first, second and sixth grades and she coordinated the virtual learning option during the 2020-21 school year.
She grew up in Neenah and graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh with a bachelor’s degree in education and two minors in social science and history. She lives in Weyauwega with her family.
As a final and handy touch, the students have their own pocket screwdrivers – the kind a technician would have tucked in a shirt pocket next to a pen. The screwdriver has reversible flat and Phillips heads and the handle is red with the school name and logo.