Foster incorporates STEM at Roosevelt

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Melissa Foster, first grade teacher at Roosevelt Elementary, helps with the STEM program at the school in Jamestown. John M. Steiner / The Sun

It is not just the lessons on test day Melissa Foster is working to teach her first graders.

She is working on something even bigger than addition and spelling.

Foster, a fifth-year first grade teacher at Roosevelt Elementary School in Jamestown, has been instrumental in introducing and incorporating the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) program to the Raiders’ campus. The program promotes individual and team growth through experiences and technology.

“It’s usually with a group of kids so it’s not individual learning,” Roosevelt Elementary Principal Patricia Smith said of the STEM program. “(Foster) has stations in her classroom of STEM activities that they work with and build things. Instead of doing paper and pencil they do more of those types of activities.”

Roosevelt implemented the STEM program three years ago but Smith said Foster has been researching ways to incorporate hands-on learning for quite some time. In February Foster and her crew of first graders utilized the STEM classroom to make projects for the community members for Kindness Week. For St. Patrick’s Day, the class was planning to build a trap to catch a leprechaun.


“The kiddos just dig that - anything that is hands on,” Foster said. “That’s exactly what we want these kids to experience. How can they problem solve and work through things and design them and redirect their thoughts if it did not go right.”

Smith said the program makes them thinkers.

"Problem-solving carries over to other aspects of their lives like how to make something better or make something work," she said.

“You can really tell in the excitement of the kids. They really don’t feel like they are learning because it is not paper and pencil and a book. They are just so excited to be working with each other and hands on and just collaborating together. It’s just astounding how you can see how the kids love it.”

STEM is not the only way the first grade teacher is working to exercise lessons in healthy team-building and problem-solving skills.

“My biggest thing this year is incorporating a social and emotional learning curriculum,” Foster said. “It focuses on ‘how do we get the world that we live in and how can we help work through that in our classroom.’”

Prior to her days at Roosevelt, Foster spent six years at Jamestown Middle School. Foster utilized her education degree from Valley City State University and her special education master’s degree earned at the University of North Dakota to help navigate the school and home relationship.

“I was just working with kids who had a rougher time at home and then of course that makes school that much more difficult,” Foster said. “I was just drawn to helping foster the home and school relationship and letting them understand that we can work through hardships and still be responsible.”


Fostering responsibility and promoting healthy relationships with others has been something the 11th year teacher has been working to teach her crew of 6- and 7-year-olds at Roosevelt.

“There are so many things that these kids deal with especially now in the outside world,” Foster said. “It comes into school so (I focus on) how can we help work through those things and still be successful learners.”

Foster has assumed the role of piloting the social and emotional learning environment for the 250 students within the walls of Roosevelt. Smith said the program works to accept others’ differences and getting along with classmates while still working out differences. The new curriculum along with the school’s Nurtured Heart Program has, according to Smith, decreased the amount of necessary disciplinary actions.

“The kids are really looking for greatness in each other and I guess you can kind of feel it when you come into school,” Smith said. “It’s not rigid, it’s welcoming and the kids are just really helping with that.”

Foster said she has seen a lot of growth from the students just in the area of empathy.

"That’s such a huge thing to me," she said. "Sometimes I feel like that is just as important as the math and reading curriculum because they are huge life skills that can be used their whole life. It’s just great to see that they are practicing that in their daily life.”

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Melissa Foster, first grade teacher at Roosevelt Elementary, helps with the STEM program at the school in Jamestown. John M. Steiner / The Sun

Gerber is a sports writer for the Jamestown Sun.
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