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Village of Merton  —  A teacher at Merton Intermediate School has helped make the month of December not only for giving and receiving presents, but also helping students determine career paths.

The purpose of Celebrating DeSTEMber is to introduce students to a wide variety of careers in STEM fields that would provide real life application for their academic studies in science, technology, engineering and math, according to school science and technology integrator Mary Iwanski.

Iwanski said the idea came when students spent a week learning computer coding during the international hour of code week in early December.

“We started looking at how we could implement hour of code in our district. And from there, we decided that it would expand to be events throughout the month of December and not just during that week,” Iwanski said. “For the fun of it, we renamed it DeSTEMber instead of December to better reflect some of the science, technology, engineering and math things that we were going to be doing during the month."

The school held an all-day event Dec. 14, for its fifth through eighth graders. More than speakers in careers of finance, coding, aerospace engineering and welding volunteered shared their experiences with students.

"It was really neat to see how the kids engaged with those different challenges, and then to hear their feedback from those challenges as well," Iwanski said. "It was also fun to hear that they were picking out already what challenges they wanted to do next year.

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Iwanski said the event was good for staff, which she believes helped them understand the different STEM career paths that students were interested in. She said the career sessions got the staff thinking about who they knew in those fields.

The speaker on welding stood out because the profession involves a different career path, she said.

Welding involves studying at a technical college to earn an apprenticeship, which contrasts from other careers that normally require a four-year college degree. The speaker had discussed how in-demand the welding, electrician fields are as viable career choices. Iwanski said that the welding simulator also gave students an idea of what the field was like.

"I think it was good for our students and for our staff today to see what else is out there, what people are doing beyond some of those fields that we hear about so often, some of the broader fields out there," Iwanski said.

Iwanski thinks the students have enjoyed the month-long set of experiences, and believes those experiences can help them once they prep school, especially with Arrowhead High School offering such courses.

“If we can help our students before they leave here have some ideas of directions that they want to go in their future, I think that can only help them once they get to Arrowhead,” Iwanski said. “Arrowhead offers so many opportunities to get college credits even while you’re in high school.

"If our kids kind of know what direction they want to go, they can really get a head start before they’re heading off to college. Anything we can do to help kids in figuring out where they want to go with their life is definitely important.”

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