May 4, 2017
By David Nordby
The Brillion News
BRILLION – Brillion Elementary School’s one-of-a-kind STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) Center officially met the public on Monday evening with a dedication of the Exploration Station.
“This is something that makes Brillion a better place,” Brillion Superintendent Dominick Madison said.
Many thanks were sent around at Monday’s dedication to people who played important roles from concept to finish. Former Brillion High School principal Paul Nistler and STEM teacher Steve Meyer’s names were brought up repeatedly, as the two helped integrate STEM into the Brillion School District beginning in 2007.
“This is a vision of Steve’s that’s now taken on a life of its own,” Ariens President and CEO Dan Ariens said. “This is a legacy for all of us in Brillion but I want to say in particular that this is a legacy for Steve that’s going to continue to grow.”
The elementary STEM Center originally broke ground in April of 2016, and was completed in three phases. Students have already been working in the center since January. Their projects are on display in the center, and faculty says the center is already paying off.
“They are very excited to come in here,” STEM Coordinator Sarah Russart said.
Russart says that the skills students are learning every day in the STEM Center are life skills, not just STEM skills.
“The teamwork is growing,” Russart said. “We see it carrying more into the classrooms after they’ve been in STEM now.” Russart adds the students are also learning patience during problem solving, particularly when they don’t have the correct answer immediately.
“Giving them the self-confidence to accept their failures and still get to that end result is really being approved here and they see it a lot more in the classrooms,” Russart said.
Giving students life experience from a young age is what the facility is all about.
“Our youth are going to leave here more equipped to enter society and more equipped to enter the work force,” Brillion Elementary School Principal Carrie Dieter said.
More than 80 percent of the money to create the STEM Center was raised through private funding. The Ariens and Endries Family Foundations each donated more than $200,000 to the facility. Ariens believes that it’s a way to make Brillion a destination and put students ahead of the curve.
Scott Koffarnus helped serve as the senior creative director of the project. Koffarnus grew up in Brillion and is the founder and CEO of Cineviz in Green Bay. Koffarnus was elated to help in his hometown to help give today’s students new experiences.
“I was super excited … We weren’t sure how we were going to work together and it all just came together,” Koffarnus said.
The idea behind the STEM Center is to give students opportunities they’ve never had before. Koffarnus adds that students must have a place where they want to learn.
“Education is changing,” he said. “It’s really about experience. It’s an experience society.”
All parties involved concur that the experiences at the STEM Center help put Brillion ahead of other communities.
“This is a facility that is innovative and representative of a cutting-edge community and a community on the rise,” Madison said.
This story was featured in the May 4, 2017 edition of The Brillion News.