Patrick Robinson
Washington Governor Jay Inslee met with K-5 STEM elementary students in West Seattle on March 28.

Governor Inslee tours K-5 STEM School in West Seattle to promote education funding

The students and staff of K-5 STEM School at Boren were treated with a high profile visitor on March 28 by Washington Governor Jay Inslee.

Inslee toured the elementary school on Delridge Way S.W. in West Seattle that focuses on starting young in teaching students the basic tenants of science, technology, engineering and math.

He stopped into several classrooms to talk with students directly about their projects, and seems to have come away impressed.

“Pure exhilaration,” Inslee said of the tour, “because you saw kids that are going to cure cancer and come up with a clean energy source to beat global warming. They are in here somewhere … and they are getting ready to do it.”

The tour came immediately after Inslee spent the morning presenting his Working Washington budget priorities for 2013-15. In a statement, Inslee wrote that, in part, those priorities include ensuring “that every child receives an excellent education and every worker gains the skills he or she needs to succeed in today’s economy. At a time when the state is failing to meet its obligations to education, these investments include important accountability measures so we can be sure your dollars are being spent wisely.”

Students at K-5 STEM were thrilled to meet their governor and show off their knowledge. Ashley Torey’s kindergarteners were busy investigating the behavior of snails when Inslee came in. When he asked what they had learned about the creatures, one student aptly replied, “They are very slow.”

Katie Bilanko’s K-1 students were making hand pollinators during the visit, and when the Governor asked who wanted to be a scientist when they grow up, the hands unanimously shot high. While some said they wanted to study plants and animals, one student was very specific in hoping to become a “hand pollinator scientist.” He had a good start on the discipline.

STEM 2nd graders were eager to share their recent work in testing the PH level of soil and water, and Inslee talked with them about how CO2 emissions are changing the PH levels of our oceans to dire effect.

“Well, people have been dumping really toxic stuff into all kinds of oceans, changing the natural balance of sea life,” one young biologist-to-be said.

“You are absolutely right,” Inslee replied.

The class asked Inslee if they could come visit him sometime, to which he wholeheartedly agreed. One student, wanting to ensure a trip to Olympia would be worth it, followed up with the question, “Can we have cake?”

“It’s astounding to think of how advanced these students are,” Inslee said after the tour. “I mean, there were 2nd graders in there talking about PH balance … and you know, 50 percent of legislators couldn’t tell you about that.”

As the tour continued Inslee encountered young engineers working in groups to build aircraft hangars out of LEGOs, others learning about geometric shapes, a class building atlatls (a prehistoric hunting spear dating back 21,000 to 17,000 years ago), even students testing out educational iPhone apps and providing feedback to the developers.

One little guy wanted to let the Governor know he would be the first scientist to “make invisibility cloaks faster.”

“I look forward to not seeing that one day,” Inslee replied.

The tour wrapped up after about 30 minutes and K-5 STEM students and staff got back to work.

“The early start (K-5 STEM students) are getting is extraordinary and I’m very committed to helping more schools develop these types of curriculum, not necessarily as a whole school, but to develop these systems of learning,” the Governor said.

As for the concern shared by some that too large of a focus on scientific and technical disciplines could leave art and creativity in the dust, Inslee didn’t seem concerned after his visit.

“The way I saw this is they were teaching creativity, which is arts … and you can use art to teach science as well, so we can do both.”

K-5 STEM is coming up on completing its first year in existence. They are expected to be at the Boren annex building through next school year, with Seattle Public Schools looking to find a new, permanent home after that.