Portage teacher recognized for hands-on STEAM club

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PORTAGE, Mich. (WOOD) — A Portage teacher is turning the tables on how children approach math and science. She created a science, technology, engineering, art and math club for students to get hands-on experience in those subjects.

Mallory Onderlinde teaches second grade at Portage Central Elementary School. She says it doesn’t work to put students into two groups: those who are good at math and science and those who aren’t.

“It’s just such a different mindset than when I was in school,” Onderlinde said. “It was, ‘Memorize these facts and take a test and if you do a good job, you’re good at science.’ And that’s really not how it is in the real world.”

Onderlinde volunteers her time every Tuesday morning before school to guide students in engaging exercises that explore science, technology, engineering, art and math. The idea is to make subjects that many students find difficult more fun.

Onderlinde said she was discouraged as a young student when it came to science and math.

“I never really thought that I was good at it,” she said.

Now it’s one of her passions, and that passion has paid off. Her hands-on approach to teaching just won her second place in a national contest sponsored by Orkin Pest Control. Onderlinde won $2,500 and the money was matched.

Onderlinde said she will put all $5,000 into her STEAM program to buy more technology for her students.

“They’re building robots, they’re building cars, they’re putting things together that they would never have the chance to do in a regular setting,” Onderlinde said.

She has a message for students who automatically think they’re bad at math and science:

“You can do science, you can do math,” she said. “It’s everywhere. It’s life. Science is life, everywhere you look. And we just want them to be exposed to that and be able to see that they can do that.”

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