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Walnut Creek Elementary student credited with getting STEM Lab up and running

Walnut Creek Cat Lab

At Walnut Creek Elementary, students have a dedicated space to learn about science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM), it's called the Cat Lab. 

The room is split up into the 4 C's of technology: Critical Thinking, Creativity, Communication, and Collaboration. 

“Really when we are splitting that up, we are focusing on those aspects to help us build 21st century students," said 4th Grade Teacher Connor Williams. 

Williams is passionate about getting technology into the classroom and teaching kids STEM skills.

“Those sort of things coming from the minds of our sixth graders all the way down to our kindergartners who are absolutely stoked to come in here is a really cool thing, all the way through.”

Walnut Creek Elementary Principal Jaime Bizal explained the most important thing that happened is they had a student voice in the creation of the Cat Lab.

“It started from a desire to infuse STEM into our classrooms. But really, we wanted it to look like what kids wanted to experience, when they came to school. So they were the ones who set up the classroom, decided what kinds of equipment they wanted to be able to use."

In fact, she credits one particular student saying the Cat Lab wouldn't be what it is today, in part, if it weren't for a sixth grade student at the time, Nolan Kassebaum. 

“Nolan was a big part of us getting the funding from PTO and without that, a lot of this isn’t possible," Williams agreed.

Nolan is credited with getting all of the funding for the Cat Lab after he gave a speech to the parent teacher organization (PTO). The PTO had done a lot of fundraising and they were looking for a way all students in each grade level could benefit from the fundraising. 

Nolan is very passionate about STEM and Bizal knew he was the right person to pitch the idea of using the PTO money to buy items for the Cat Lab. 

“He came to a PTO meeting and he had prepared a presentation that he gave to the crowd and the entire crowd fell in love with him and his ideas, for what the Cat Lab could and should be, and just like that they gave him $5,000," said Bizal. 

Bizal explained the PTO largely made the Cat Lab possible, but really it was Nolan who started it all.

“He was just so eloquent, answered questions, and really conducted himself in such a great way, it was just a great demonstration of his leadership, I was just so proud," said Bizal.

Nolan is modest about his accomplishment and shrugged when told what a big impact he has made. However, his passion for STEM is obvious as his eyes light up when he is asked about why STEM is important.

“It’s important that kids can learn this stuff now days because most jobs you are going to have when you are older will involve technology," Nolan said.

He likes to watch his fellow classmates problem solve in the Cat Lab and figure out how the different gadgets work. 

Bizal feels the exciting part about the Cat Lab is the kids are the ones who really built the lab and will continue to do so in the coming years.

Nolan is now a 7th grade student at Papillion Middle, but his legacy at Walnut Creek Elementary will live on through the Cat Lab.