Beaufort Elementary School's story began five years ago when our school earned the AdvancED STEM certification for the Advanced Math, Engineering and Science Academy (AMES). This academy is a choice program that is offered at Beaufort Elementary School for gifted and talented or high ability students in grades three through five. Our school celebrated the certification that resulted from the efforts we made within the academy in STEM teaching and learning, but we knew that our next steps would be to spread our practices so that all students at Beaufort Elementary School had equal access to the same learning opportunities. With that said, the past five years have included a schoolwide journey in building a broader STEM program, connecting opportunities in STEM learning beyond our school walls, and building a vision and mindset of embedded STEM practices.
The focus of our STEM identity involves a philosophy of offering STEM opportunities to all students in all grade levels. During the past five years, we have extended our engineering lab course from solely serving the AMES program population to all grade three through five students. Our brand also includes a collection of STEM learning labs. These include Engineering Lab, Computer Science/Coding Lab coursework, Lego Engineering Lab lessons and Makerspace projects in our Media Arts class. All of these courses are included in our master school schedule in Power School.
Our values are rooted in a belief that STEM is not simply something 'you do' but something that is embedded in 'everything you do'. We have evolved from STEM learning in pull out instructional opportunities, to STREAM (Science, Technology, Reading, Engineering, Arts and Math) being integrated in every subject area, in and outside of the general education setting. Having a STEM mindset means that students are involved in activities that promote problem solving and higher-level thinking skills in multiple settings and content areas. Teachers regularly plan for cross-curricular STEM based instructional units, schoolwide STEM fairs and challenges, family events for STEM engagement with our community, and literacy integrations. These include activities, such as, 'River of Words' work and 'One School, One Book' STEM competition. In order to fully define our identity and beliefs, our school revisited the school mission statement and core values to better reflect our growth and development in twenty-first century learning practices.
We strive to align our practices with the Cognia i3 rubric. During our first certification process, our evaluation results allowed us to dive deeper into areas of improvement and to think of ways to continue the momentum in our areas of strength. Our daily practices, lesson plans, units of study, master schedule, and lab cycles reflect the four main areas of the rubric: Community, Culture, Experiences and Outcomes. However, our leadership and STEM teams remain focused on continuous improvement in our areas of need. These include developing community partnerships, monitoring our STEM outreach goals to increase attendance from underrepresented groups, and providing experiences to further student understanding of STEM careers. Each year, we have planned and executed further development in these areas by partnering and collaborating with our School Improvement Council (SIC) members for support and by working with our local Academy for Career Excellence school (ACE). Our instructional coaches have also dedicated monthly professional learning sessions to deeply study STEM practices and mindset with our entire staff. Each year, our Title I budget has reflected our goals for STEM instruction, professional development, field trips and additional staff salaries. We have made great efforts to share our improvements and successes at local and state conferences, as well as, hosting other schools to visit our campus to observe what we do each day.
Our greatest success is the dedication and commitment of the staff to drive our school into continuous improvement towards increased student achievement. As reflected in our School Renewal Plan, our goal is for all students to grow academically, socially and emotionally, and to reach a high level of active engagement. We believe that providing high quality instruction and opportunities for students to participate in higher level thinking activities will ultimately prepare them for any future learning and success to be career and college ready. By embedding STEM and the engineering process in all curricular areas, our students are steadily exposed to problem solving, improvement strategies, and alternative solution development. This certification process has allowed us to take stock of our current practices and identify areas of need. We intend to build better relationships with STEM professionals in our community, continue to build critical thinking skills in our diverse student population, and educate our student body about STEM careers. Ultimately, we will be able to develop goals and strategies to build future growth and success in Cognia's four domains.