Meet ‘Super Kitty’ Clark. When Christopher Todd, a teacher and engineer, stumbled upon Clark in a local pet supply store, he just couldn’t forget him.
The kitten was equipped with a makeshift cart to compensate for his paralyzed back legs, but Todd thought it could use an upgrade.
Who to take on the task? His energetic class of sixth graders, of course.
The students are enrolled in a Project Lead the Way course at Cane Creek Middle School that focuses on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) education. Now the class is charged with improving Clark’s current set of wheels to allow for more stability, comfort and mobility.
The students are more than excited by the assignment. “It makes me feel that somebody actually trusts me, and we get to actually help [Clark] in his life,” explains Sutton Walker, one of the the lucky sixth graders.
They are engaged in research on everything from anticipated cost to appropriate materials for construction, not to mention the nuances of customization. Of particular concern is the way that Clark’s tail rubs against the wheels of his current cart.
Todd remains optimistic about the outcome and sees an opportunity to connect his classroom with real-world situations: “What engineers do is solve problems and this is a problem that’s very tangible.”
Terry Grossman, Clark’s foster mom and president of the Transylvania Animal Alliance Group adds, “the students have the chance to apply what they’re learning besides just getting a grade. Outcome-wise they can see how it’s going to impact him and how what they’ve done can help.”
STEM and STEAM education hold huge benefits for students and their future contributions to society. Project Lead the Way anticipates 1.2 million unfilled STEM jobs by 2018. And these jobs are growing faster than any other U.S. sector. By engaging more students at younger ages, we increase the chance that traditionally underrepresented populations–like women and black Americans–will pursue careers in STEM. Increased diversity will undoubtedly spark greater innovation.
STEM also seems to generate genuine interest from students. Whether it’s coding, robotics or even constructing a prosthetic arm, the opportunity to develop practical solutions to everyday problems bolsters confidence and inspires creativity. Never again will students associate math and science with boredom.
Perhaps most importantly, though, Clark teaches another valuable lesson – one of overcoming obstacles. At only a few weeks old, the kitten arrived at Henderson Country Animal Services with his injury, likely the result of a dog injuring his fragile spinal nerve.
Despite his paralysis, Grossman contends,”his theme from the get-go has been ‘no limits.’ He does not have any understanding whatsoever that he’s supposed to be disabled.”
And Mr. Todd’s sixth grade class couldn’t be any more accepting of Clark’s differences. The Superman cape says it all.
Photo Credit (for all photos): BCS Communications / Vimeo