Parents and trustees have been transforming former locker room into lab following $10,000 anonymous matching grant and subsequent donations

MISSOURI - A former locker room at St. John's Lutheran School will soon become a new Science, Technology, Electronics and Mathematics (STEM) lab, thanks to an anonymous $10,000 matching funds donation combined with support from other donors and volunteer work from parents and trustees.

Carol Logsdon, financial and school secretary, said school officials spread the word about the STEM lab and received several donations, including a large anonymous gift which completed the match. Plans call for the lab to be complete by December — bringing the opportunity for typing classes along with a variety of hands-on activities focused on STEM topics like computer coding, robotics and using microscopes.

St. John's Lutheran School continues to grow — six years ago, there were 56 students enrolled. Administrator JoAnne Conoyer said they are projecting 90 students for the upcoming school year.

It's wonderful,” We've been very blessed,” she said. “It's growing and it's just amazing.”

Conoyer previously taught third and fourth grade at the school, transitioning to her new role after former Administrator Ann Lear retired. Logsdon said for the first time, every class from Preschool to fourth grade is in a separate classroom to meet the growing number of students. Trustees and parent volunteers have been busy constructing and moving walls to make use of space, and the next chapter in the school's growth is well underway in the former locker room below the gymnasium.`

Logsdon said friends and family members have been volunteering their time to construct the new lab, “because it's a massive project for our little school.” The STEM lab and growth reflected a substantial turnaround over the past few years.

Several years ago, Logsdon said officials were talking about the possibility of closing St. John's Lutheran School. She described that thought as “heartbreaking” — her father went to St. John's, and her three children are now students at the school. Now, the fifth and sixth grade students are in the biggest classrooms in the school, and there is a waiting list for the Preschool program.
“With God's help and all of the people of the church, we came back out on top,” she said.

Parents have been helping research new STEM equipment, keyboarding apps and other items as construction work moves forward. Logsdon and Conoyer are excited about the chance for students to discover new technologies through hands-on activities.

Volunteers recently installed new flooring for the future storage area, and the lab continues to take shape as volunteers prepare to take on tasks like installing new sliding windows. Logsdon said keyboarding classes could start soon, and plans call for the STEM lab to be complete at the end of the December — in time for the second semester of the school year. Conoyer said children as young as two years of age rapidly master advances in technology.

“I was reading an article the other day on the importance of STEM labs — it's not just for your coding — it's for everything, even lifelong skills,” she said. Logsdon agreed.

“And you work together, versus just looking at a computer screen and being alone,” she said. “It brings them together as a team — which is really important, considering we're losing that so much.”

Along with construction for the STEM lab, volunteers have painted walls and trim, waxed floors and performed other tasks throughout the school building.

“We have a lot of selfless workers — just behind the scenes, they don't want any credit,” she said. “Who would have thought 30 years ago this locker room would become a STEM lab?”

Conoyer expressed her excitement about the school's newest addition as well.

“Once it gets painted and we get some stuff on the walls and make it fun for the kids, I think they're really going to enjoy it,” she said. “The more hands-on they can be, I think, the better.”

tmcdonald@courierpost.com