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September 11, 2023

Leveraging new learning methods with the help of Google Fiber in West Des Moines

  • , community impact

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In 2022, Google Fiber provided a $30,000 grant to the West Des Moines Community Schools Foundation to advance their initiative to expand STEM programming in all West Des Moines Community Schools (WDMCS) elementary schools. This support was directed to Western Hills Elementary School, where principal Jenna Presley has launched a new STEAM lab this fall. STEAM programming taps into children's natural curiosity and creativity, and Western Hills staff and teachers have been evaluating and planning the best ways to engage the entire student body to explore the world through this new resource.



For our dedicated team at Western Hills Elementary School, getting back to school is our favorite time of the year. Each of our students, from pre-K through sixth grade, comes from a different background and learns in different ways, so we’re constantly looking for opportunities to better reach students, enhance their learning experience and set them up for success both inside and outside the classroom. 

This year, we are proud to offer a brand new, interactive STEAM lab to our students with resources that span across ages and grades. STEAM incorporates all the great attributes of STEM – science, technology, engineering and mathematics – while incorporating arts into the mix, including visual, language and physical arts. Many students have greater aptitude and affinity for either arts and humanities or mathematics and science, and STEAM brings these together while tapping into students’ natural curiosity and creativity.

Several WDMCS elementary schools offer some STEM/STEAM programming to their students, so when we were presented with this opportunity by Google Fiber, we knew our students would greatly benefit from these types of learning resources.

Our staff has been incredibly intentional with the grant from Google Fiber. We not only needed a physical space in the school, but also a way to create access to the resources and activities so teachers could check them out from the lab and bring them into their classrooms. Much more than a play space, we wanted to create an interactive and exploratory space that fosters hands-on learning, hones underlying strengths and student learning targets, and finds ways to connect these resources within existing lesson plans. 

We have worked for months to make this program and lab as accessible as possible. After going through a professional development and training seminar this summer, each of our teachers worked with staff to evaluate lesson plans for opportunities to incorporate our new STEAM resources. A few of the tools students get to experience and learn with this year include:

  • BeeBots programmable robots introduce the concept of coding and emphasize measurement and multiplication skills

  • Spirobots introduce the practical application of robotics to students 

  • Merge Cubes interactive digital canvas enhance learning potential and opportunities 

These tools are just a few of the many our staff will utilize to explore and leverage new learning methods and opportunities with our students. At Western Hills Elementary, we are big proponents of voice and choice, and we strive to offer a variety of resources for both our staff and students that foster engagement, learning and excitement while here at school. 

Thanks to a generous donation from Google Fiber, our team is proud to bring these new exciting STEAM resources and lab to our staff and students. This is just the beginning. We know this lab will grow and shift as the tools and resources become more ingrained in our lesson plans and offerings, and we are excited to create new ways to bring out the genius in all of our students. 

Posted by: Jenna Pressley, Principal, Western Hills Elementary School