By KATIE BORKOWSKI
POCAHONTAS – In an effort to help children move in the direction of becoming an electrical engineer or a similar profession, Jerome Hronek donated $10,000 to the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) Center at Pocahontas Catholic School.
“I was an electrical engineer,” said the parishioner at Resurrection of Our Lord Church and resident at Arlington Place in Pocahontas. “It was a good job, a fun job. I hope they (the students) will learn the very basics, which I never did. I never learned anything about science, algebra or any sort of calculations to solve a problem.”
Hronek also hopes the students will not have to go through the same “torture I did when I first got involved with mathematics and other subjects.”
“This is one of the centers the students can go to engage in the components of STEM,” he said. “We want them to get their hands dirty, experiment and fail, fail, fail, until they ultimately figure out a solution to whatever the problem is they were posed with.”
The principal added the center is a place for the kids to go and experience all sorts of learning that “comes specifically with the components of STEM.”
“What I love about STEM is it integrates curriculums,” said Eisenbarth. “It gives kids an opportunity to authentically learn through experiencing things and experimenting. A lot more ownership is put on the kids to be the problem solvers.”
The STEM Center is for all Pocahontas Catholic students, kindergarten through fifth grade. The school plans to have a sign up for the children who want to use the center as well as collaborative cross-age work; i.e., kindergarteners work with third graders, Eisenbarth explained.
“It is under construction as we speak,” he said. “We have a STEM Center committee that was formulated to give guidance to this.”
The school board helped Eisenbarth put together a committee of people “we consider experts in science, technology, engineering and math.”
Representatives from each of those areas recently sat down for the inaugural meeting to define the purpose of the center and what it will look like.
“The purpose is to utilize the funds (from Hronek) in an appropriate way,” said the principal. “We are going to get stools for kids to sit on and work alongside the outside of the room. We have tables for the students to sit at and make predictions and follow up with their note-taking.”
Eisenbarth reported the center will be equipped with a Lego board, a peg board, a sink and other items to help with the different components of STEM.
“We have some painting to do and physical things to do before we order the equipment we need,” he said. “We have the funds to equip the room and it is going to be a work in progress.”
As the students use the center starting in the fall, Eisenbarth pointed out they may realize there are other needs or other interests to be incorporated into the center.
The principal acknowledged the generous donor, Hronek, who wants to “see kids engaged in that kind of learning, such as the engineering field.”
“I am happy I can support this and other church projects,” said Hronek. “I made my living as an electrical engineer. I felt the Pocahontas kids, especially those in the Catholic school, were not getting enough of the basic ideas of why things work the way they do. I expect every farm kid was the way I was – I wondered what makes the wheels go ‘round.”
Eisenbarth and some of the students visited Hronek at Arlington Place, thanked him and sang Amazing Grace for him.
“God bless you for your generosity,” said Eisenbarth to Hronek for his donation. “I promised him I would do my due diligence to ensure the money is well put to use and the STEM Center that is created because of that is going to be maximized by our students and staff.”
The principal commented it is not every day someone hands you $10,000 “to stimulate and enhance learning for kids.”