IPSD 204 – Case Study

How One District Transformed the Way They Rolled out STEM!

Building a Future of Excellence

Indian Prairie School District 204 (IPSD 204) is a leading educational institution in the Chicago suburbs, catering to over 26,000 students from preschool to grade 12. Committed to academic excellence and holistic student development, IPSD 204 sought to redefine STEM education in their elementary schools.

Facing the closure of a dedicated STEM school, IPSD 204 embarked on an ambitious journey to integrate SAM Labs, a flexible and innovative program, into their classrooms. Under the guidance of Laura Nylen, Director of Digital Learning and K-8 STEM Integration, and with the support of STEM Integration Specialist Elizabeth Kaleta, IPSD 204 embraced the challenges and opportunities presented by SAM Labs.

Tackling the Hurdles

Despite finding SAM Labs to be the ideal program in terms of flexibility and support, Mrs. Nylen was aware that implementing it extensively would pose a challenge.

Laura Nylen and Elizabeth Kaleta addressed issues of implementation, support, measurement, workload management, tailoring the program to fit the diverse needs of each school and equity in order to successfully integrate SAM Labs into their elementary schools.

Implementing STEM Extensively Posed Challenges

Varying School Sizes

Implementing a district-wide program through 21 elementary schools with varying student populations presented a challenge in terms of equitable access and implementation.

Measuring Soft Skills

Measuring and assessing growth in soft skills presents a challenge for teachers in terms of evaluating and tracking students' progress in these areas.

STEM School Closure

The closure of the district's dedicated STEM school posed a challenge in terms of determining how to integrate STEM effectively across all elementary schools.

Limited Support

The absence of instructional coaches meant that principals took on additional responsibilities during implementation. This created challenges in terms of providing sufficient and effective support to teachers.

Teacher Buy-in

Some teachers were hesitant with the idea of implementing something new alongside their existing responsibilities. Ensuring that teachers felt supported and not burdened by the new program posed a challenge.

Challenging Times

The timing of proposing the SAM Labs integration coincided with a period of COVID-induced changes and made it challenging to introduce a new program while teachers were already facing increased workloads.

Tailored Solutions for District-wide Integration

The district was proactive with their approach to addressing challenges through targeted staffing, collaboration with school leaders, direct support for teachers, commitment to flexibility, and leveraging external support from the SAM Labs team.

By tailoring timelines, collaborating with curriculum teams, addressing equity concerns, and offering professional development, IPSD 204 sought to overcome challenges and ensure the successful implementation of SAM Labs.

The Exact Steps IPSD 204 Took Toward STEM Success!

Strategic Plan

To guide the district's strategic planning and ensure students' acquisition of essential skills for success, IPSD 204 formulated their own "Portrait of a Graduate." This comprehensive framework outlines the desired skills and competencies that every student should possess upon graduation.


Mrs. Nylen and the Deputy Superintendent presented the idea of integrating SAM Labs into the classrooms to the elementary school principals of the district through a formal presentation. They scheduled a meeting with the principals to discuss the concept and its potential benefits for the students and schools.

Identifying Gaps

IPSD 204 engaged in meetings with principals to extend invitations for the participation during the implementation year. During these meetings, they identified areas of improvement in the School Improvement Plans and explored how the integration of SAM Labs could address and bridge those gaps.


Ms. Kaleta co-taught and demonstrated the implementation of the new program to teachers, starting with the initial lessons. She then selected one SAM Labs lesson for each of the three primary content areas, providing teachers with practical examples and guidance for incorporating SAM Labs into their instruction.

PD Programs

The involvement of SAM Labs' customer success representative, Mackenzie, in their professional development initiatives was complemented by the visit of founder and CEO Joachim Horn, who directly interacted with the teachers during his presence in the district. Mrs. Nylen attributes this experience as a significant contributing factor to the success in implementing the program.

Implement Rollout

With the success of the first years implementation, IPSD 204 is expanding the program to include additional schools. Following the IPSD 204 STEM Implementation Plan Timeline, they plan to onboard seven more schools in the upcoming year, with the remaining seven schools joining the program in the subsequent year.

Achievements through SAM Labs Implementation

IPSD 204 experienced positive engagement from teachers, increased visibility of competencies, and a growing interest in expanding the program to more schools. These results indicate progress and a promising future for the implementation of SAM Labs in the district.

Big Results Came from Implementing SAM Labs...


SAM Labs support extended beyond product assistance and encompassed collaboration and co-teaching with teachers. This approach fostered a partnership between SAM Labs and IPSD 204, resulting in a positive implementation experience.

Building Proficiencies

SAM Labs helped teachers see the development of competencies, including soft skills, in action. The program provided a tangible way for teachers to observe and assess students' growth in these areas, which might otherwise be challenging to measure.

Curriculum Alignment

IPSD 204 was able to align the implementation of SAM Labs with their existing curriculum. This resulted in a more cohesive and integrated approach to STEM education, ensuring that SAM Labs complemented and enhanced the district's educational goals.

Student Engagement

Students were excited and engaged during SAM Labs lessons, and word quickly spread among teachers. Teachers started scheduling time for the STEM Integration Specialist to come into their classrooms and implement SAM Labs' lessons.

Incremental Expansion

The district initiated their implementation with 7 schools. Many elementary school principals expressed interest in participating in the second year of implementation, demonstrating a growing interest and desire to integrate SAM Labs into their schools.

Culture of Innovation

The program helped foster a culture of innovation and hands-on learning within the district. By implementing SAM Labs effectively, IPSD 204 aimed to ignite curiosity and creativity in students, encouraging exploration and problem-solving.

The Journey Ahead

The remarkable progress made by Indian Prairie School District 204 (IPSD 204) in integrating SAM Labs into their elementary classrooms showcases their unwavering dedication to advancing STEM education and nurturing the skills students need to thrive in the modern world.

IPSD 204 continues to expand their program and build upon successes. With the continued efforts of passionate educators like Laura Nylen, Elizabeth Kaleta, and the entire IPSD 204 community, the future is bright for students as they embark on a journey of discovery, exploration, and limitless possibilities.

"We heard teachers loud and clear. They couldn't have more on their plates. They needed something that was already packaged and ready. That's what you guys offer. Your lesson plans and all the pieces that go into each unit is fantastic and user-friendly!" -Laura Nylen