OGLESBY — Hundreds of students and staff from schools across the Illinois Valley gathered Tuesday at IVCC to participate in the third annual STEA²M Conference presented through the efforts of the LaMoille School District.
Featuring many presentations in the disciplines of science, technology, engineering, art, agriculture and math (STEA²M), both students and educators were given the opportunity to explore their interests throughout the day.
"The elements of STEA²M have become so important to the future of our students. We hope what they're exposed to today will inspire them towards a future and career they're both interested in and enjoy," LaMoille teacher Carol Darveau said.
"This conference has also been of tremendous help to my students because it's taught them how to work together to successfully organize a complicated event," she added.
Participating in the campus-wide event were attendees from Hall, Lostant, LaMoille, DePue, Putnam County, Oglesby, Waltham, Bureau Valley, JFK, Holy Cross, Princeton, Neponset and St. Mary's schools.
"This event is helpful in that it helps our students to learn how to collaborate and use their brains in different ways than they do in school," Maricelle Ellena, a teacher at Putnam County Junior High School, said.
The morning's keynote speaker was Jason Marquis, of Marquis Energy. He shared his family's history in the area, guided the students through a series of challenging puzzles, and gave them advice on what's needed to be successful.
"Having a growth mindset and knowing how to learn is important, and resilience is a key factor," he said.
Following the presentation and mental exercises in the IVCC gymnasium, the students split up and selected a variety of different concurrent presentations to attend throughout the campus.
Some of the topics featured included physics, photography, scientific method, the Civil Air Patrol, zoology, problem solving, wellness and fitness, mathematic design, crime scene investigation, community planning, computer design, environmental science, coding, video editing, and more.
Schools also often take what they've seen at the STEA²M Conference and return home to use it in their curriculum.
"This is my first time here, but this is a great opportunity for our students to participate in hands-on presentations and explore different areas of science and technology," JFK teacher Julia Toller said.
"I enjoy how our students can explore hands-on activities, and it helps them think outside of the box," Lostant teacher Tricia Haynes said.
Jay McCracken, interim superintendent for LaMoille and the former superintendent for Putnam County and Hall High School, said education has had to adapt in order to provide more direct pathways for students, particularly those not bound for college.
"We believe STEAM education is immensely important for our young people, and this conference wonderfully compliments our Career Start program that's intended to equip our students with the skills they need to successfully enter into a well-paid career," he said.