Unit-school partnership helps show how classroom work is used in the real world
By Karl Weisel
U.S. Army Garrison Wiesbaden
WIESBADEN, Germany — A partnership at one Wiesbaden school is bringing the study of STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) classes to life for middle school students. As the unit partner for Wiesbaden Middle School, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Europe District, shares its experience, expertise and know-how -- helping underscore the real-world applications of those subject areas.
"We work closely with the principal at the beginning of the year to see what students need," said Jennifer Aldridge with the USACE Europe District, Public Affairs Office. "We want to tie in to what the students are doing in the classroom and be relevant.
"With the big focus on STEM, we're trying to help bolster student interest in those areas," Aldridge said.
Ben Jones, an architect with the corps, was a guest speaker in Mely Arnold's eighth-grade mathematics class Feb. 23 during National Engineers Week.
"This is very relevant to what they're doing in class," said Arnold, explaining that having guest speakers such as Jones and fellow engineers, the students can see the connection between the theory and its application.
It also promotes the school's Continuous School Improvement goal of ensuring that "all students raise their mathematic and computational skills in all content areas," she said.
"This is an opportunity to give back," said Jones, who joined the Europe District last October and has worked with the Corps of Engineers for more than two years.
"Being an architect in Europe is like being a kid in a candy store," he said, describing the opportunity to examine some of the world's great architectural works first-hand. "There's such a rich history and lots to be learned here in Europe."
Demonstrating some of the computer applications architects use to design structures -- SketchUp and AutoCAD -- Jones told the students, "You can create photo realistic images on the computer that you can't by hand." But, he also pointed out, being able to draw can help the architect in showing a client what a building or buildings might look like when completed in their natural surroundings.
Jones, who studied architecture at the Georgia Institute of Technology and worked for the Savannah District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers before coming to Germany, also stressed the importance of learning good communications skills while in school. "Another important task that we do is coordinating the design of a structure with the engineers."
Students asked a wide variety of questions ranging from the importance of studying calculus in college to what an architect studies.
"Architectural programs put a lot of emphasis on architectural development," Jones said, explaining that a building might represent various aspects of society -- "people, politics, culture."
Students were also curious as to which types of engineers had the "hardest" jobs. "It really depends on the type of project," said Jones, adding that structural engineers might have the most challenging tasks.
Jones' visit was one of several by USACE professionals aimed at helping put a face on how classroom learning is applied in real-world occupations.