INCLUSION/EQUITY: School/program provides equitable opportunities for students to engage in high-quality STEM learning.
- STEM Leadership Team planning school-wide initiatives
- Planning for a more inclusive Master Schedule
- Schoolwide implementation of the Engineering Design Process
What Does It Look Like?
Beaufort Elementary provides multiple opportunities for all students in the school to engage in STEM learning. Not only is STEM integrated into the classroom curriculum, but the school also provides structured STEM classes developed to hone skills used in the Engineering Design Process. These skills are an essential part of the related arts labs: Engineering, Computer Science/Coding, Lego Lab, and Makerspace. In addition, the school provides opportunities for the community to be involved with students by connecting them with real world problems facing our community.
PreK to 5th grade students have the opportunity to participate in both Lego Lab and Computer Science /Coding Lab, which each last fifty-five minutes. Additionally, students in grades three through five get an extra seventy-five minutes of STEM education weekly through Engineering Lab. Throughout the school, teachers use the same Engineering Design Process template with the same language. This develops cohesion so students know the expectations as they work through a build. Rubrics emphasizing this process are utilized in grading projects. Students are aware that the EDP is an essential component of their learning goals.
Many additional opportunities are provided for students to participate in STEM learning through individual classroom projects, as well as schoolwide STEM activities. Teachers conscientiously incorporate STEM learning into their specific content areas. Students regularly participate in schoolwide STEM challenges. Beaufort Elementary hosts STEM days where students engage in engineering builds based on classroom topics. These days are dedicated to using the engineering design process to teach various subject-specific grade level standards. Some projects have included making a clothesline code that the patriots may have used during the American Revolution, designing an assembly line to build a toy racer, or finding a way to help the Emperor Penguin keep his egg from breaking during a fall. During these days, the students participated in schoolwide challenges, such as, building a catapult to get Uncle S. Patch home for Thanksgiving or building the tallest snowman.
Other opportunities for STEM learning are provided through grade-level builds such as our “Holiday Gift” challenges. The STEM Leadership team dressed up as elves and delivered packages with STEM challenges to each grade level. PreK camouflaged the reindeer to be hidden from the abominable snowman, kindergarten built Christmas trees from paper cups to see which could hold the most ornaments, and first grade tried to make reindeer fly. The excitement on the students' faces when the packages were delivered was unbelievable. The second-grade classes had a great time making catapults to shoot marshmallows into hot chocolate. The third graders' ideas were amazing as they designed another way to get Santa up to the chimney since the reindeer had gotten pedicures and their paws were too slippery to land on the roof. Fourth graders were extremely competitive as they designed peppermint race cars. The fragile package competition (an egg drop from the second floor) that the fifth graders participated in was exciting for everyone.
Our STEM learning was expanded through the implementation of a One School, One Book project based on the book Brambleheart by Henry Cole. After everyone in the school finished reading the adventures of Twig, students completed STEM challenges based on events from the novel. Prekindergarten through third grade, along with special education students, had to design a boat that would float and hold the four main characters as they tried to get the dragon safely away. Depending on grade level, they were given different materials to work with to complete the challenge. When they came to test, students were excited to put their boats in the water, add the characters, and count as they added weights (food) to see which boat could hold the most. The older children celebrated by designing sailboats that would be raced in an inflatable water raceway as a fan simulated wind. The students were so enthusiastic about the whole process that per students’ requests we are planning challenges for the sequel Bayberry Island coming soon.
We have started to purposely include self-contained special education students in various STEM challenges, where we had not done so in previous years. The engineering teacher plans special challenges for them based on literature they read, such as Pete the Cat: Trick or Pete. Based on the story, each child had to make something scary. Materials, such as Keva® blocks, have also been purchased for them so they can create and design in their classrooms. We plan to continue to grow these opportunities and increase their involvement in STEM learning.
At BES, we have evolved into a learning environment where we provide STEM opportunities to all students across all grade levels. Our strength is creatively engaging all students through STEM. We have conscientiously implemented STEM throughout the entire school community through inclusive strategies such as our related arts classes, monthly challenges, and our One School, One Book initiative.
A substantial portion of our Title 1 budget is dedicated to buying supplies and providing resources to teachers for STEM. Members of the STEM leadership team have provided support by teaching model lessons, offering to team teach, and team planning with classroom teachers. The STEM leadership team also works to plan staff development to help teachers feel more adept at implementing STEM and integrating additional content areas such as social studies, ELA, and special areas. During professional development, new strategies are shared to enrich the STEM practices such as adding budgets as a constraint.
One of our biggest challenges is that many of our students come from an impoverished background and lack personal experiences. STEM is a means in which we can attempt to even out the playing field. Another challenge we face is our diverse population. We have a wide spectrum of abilities. We have a magnet program for high ability, and we house severe and profound special education students for the district. Meeting the needs of all is challenging but it is a worthwhile goal.
Though we have made great progress, an area for improvement is to find even more opportunities for special education and PreK students to be included in STEM learning. In our severe and profound classrooms, the opportunity to feel special and valued is provided through participation in simple STEM activities. Being given a chance to interact with others and touch different materials is monumental. Our PreK students may lack certain skills but they also have wide imaginations and curiosity. We need to continue to ensure that these natural instincts are nurtured through problem solving.
STEM EDUCATOR COLLABORATION: STEM educators collaborate and develop, implement, and improve high-quality learning activities.
- Providing professional development opportunities
- Developing partnerships with community
- Sharing STEM knowledge through professional development
- Planning for STEM enrichment opportunities
What Does It Look Like?
Our educators meet on a regular schedule to collaborate, innovate, plan, and adjust integrated STEM learning experiences. These collaborative opportunities include weekly cluster meetings led by our instructional coaches, faculty meetings, and grade level common planning, all of which are supported by the STEM leadership team. Grade level teachers consistently plan together so that lessons are integrated across the curriculum and are uniform to create equitable learning opportunities for all students. Teachers have created a lesson bank for high-quality STEM lessons that meet grade level standards. When a teacher tries a new STEM activity in their room that is successful, they can save it to the bank for others to use. One teacher recently developed an engineering challenge for construction of a Hooverville Shanty that could withstand wind, water, and the weight of snow. Now that this lesson has been added to the bank, we expect to see others duplicate this learning experience next year.
Teachers work with outside agencies to develop and create new learning experiences for students. For example, Fripp Island Audubon generated lessons and learning opportunities for all of our 4th grade students. Students have the opportunity to experience one program involving live owls and another where raptors are brought to the school. They also build birdhouses, dissect owl pellets, make bird ornaments, and attend a field trip to learn even more about the birds in our area. In addition, our school coordinates with 4-H Clemson Extension and other outside agencies to develop student-centered projects. One of these projects is creating a STEM garden that involves many learning experiences centered on STEM concepts. Other community agencies that have helped incorporate STEM in the building include the Arts Center of Coastal Carolina Traveling Arts Reach Program and Beaufort Conservation Education Outreach. These agencies offer free or low-cost programs that teachers can request to have in their classrooms. PreK students had the chance to learn about Polar Habitats and many classrooms have used art projects to learn more about math and science. Providing our students with opportunities like this helps to enhance learning.
Additionally, staff members collaborate to create STEM-based afterschool enrichment opportunities. Robotics, The "A" in STEAM is Art, and Storybook Engineering are some examples of the clubs that students can attend during our after school program. All programs are free of cost and students sign up to participate. During storybook engineering students helped fairy tale characters solve various problems. For example, the fox ate the gingerbread boy's leg so they had to design a way for him to get around. The creativity that stemmed from this prompt was impressive. The students made crutches, wheelchairs, pogo sticks, and so much more. The Robotics club allowed students the opportunity to practice coding with several different types of robots. The addition of the "A" in STEAM is Art club includes projects that gave the students a creative way to learn more science content.
Our STEM leadership team organizes an annual family STEM night where teachers and families work together to provide opportunities to extend this type of learning at home. This year, we held STEM night virtually through a drive through setting where students presented their projects. During the presentation, faculty members talk about the various STEM learning that takes place in each of their classrooms (Lego Lab, Engineering, and Computer Science/Coding, as well as Makerspace). Over the years, families work together to complete STEM challenges such as building a chair for Mr. Potato Head out of paper, making the longest paper chain from a single sheet of paper, and building the tallest snowman. No matter what the challenge, there is always a lot of fun along with the learning.
Members of our faculty have presented on multiple STEM-related topics, such as the benefits of providing equitable STEM learning for all students at the South Carolina Association of Title I Administration conference (SCATA). We have also shared our ideas at Beaufort County’s Summer Institute for teachers. One of these presentations was called the "M" in STEM is math. The participants in this session all expressed that they had learned a lot of information that they could take back and implement in their own classrooms. In addition, our school media specialist has presented at a state conference on incorporating Makerspaces into the media center. Within our own school, faculty members have presented training on the use of technology, Foss Kits, and STEM bins.
A strength of Beaufort Elementary’ s program is a collaboration amongst the faculty to ensure that our students engage in high-quality learning that supports our curricula. Members of the faculty have attended conferences and workshops related to this topic in order to improve their understanding of STEM and their ability to implement STEM activities in their classrooms.
Administration is committed to providing time for collaboration and in-house professional development as well as funds to ensure that faculty members have the opportunities for professional development from outside sources as well. As previously mentioned, there is a large portion of funds set aside for materials to ensure that teachers can implement high quality STEM learning activities.
We strive to involve community members and families in our endeavors. However, parental involvement remains a challenge, but we are recognizing growth through our family events. Once parents participate in these engaging experiences, they genuinely see the advantages and keep coming back for more. Many of our community contacts are of retirement age and due to current conditions are not as involved.
An opportunity to improve high-quality STEM activities would be to include more collaboration with community resources to develop an awareness of additional real-world problems relevant to our local area. We have had a great deal of success with our Family STEM night. Families work on challenges together and can earn prizes. All families leave with supplies and ideas for creating their own STEM experiences at home.
STEM COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT: School/program engages diverse STEM community in order to support and sustain STEM programs and initiatives.
- SIC STEM initiatives
- Developing Community Partnerships
What Does It Look Like?
Since our initial certification, our school has increased the use of community resources to provide educational opportunities to all students. These partnerships give students access to topics such as conservation, ecology, authentic engineering opportunities, biology, and art. One example of our community engagement is inviting local high school students as judges for our Invention Convention. Our annual science fair is judged by Regional Science Fair judges, which include local business owners and scientists. We also have parents and community members who serve on our School Improvement Council (SIC). Our SIC is responsible for prioritizing the funding for our STEM field trips per grade level and recruiting STEM-based community partners.
Another way we involve outside agencies to enhance learning experiences for students is by bringing in special instructional programs that tie into academic standards. For example, Fripp Island Audubon develops lessons and learning opportunities for all 4th grade students. In addition, our school coordinates with 4-H Clemson Extension and other outside agencies to develop student-centered projects. Fifth grade students are involved in Seeds to Shoreline which is a program designed to replenish marsh grasses in the local environment. Another way our program is supported by the local community is through the Academy of Career Excellence (ACE) where boys from 4th-5th grades take a field trip to observe future careers in STEM fields. Additionally, we plan a career fair each year to expose students to different STEM career paths. Students and teachers from the local high school and ACE present at the STEM Career Day.
In addition, our school coordinates with 4-H Clemson Extension and other outside agencies to develop student-centered projects. Fifth grade students are involved in Seeds to Shoreline which is a program designed to replenish marsh grasses in the local environment.
Another way our program is supported by the local community is through the Academy of Career Excellence (ACE) where boys from 4th-5th grade take a field trip to observe future careers in STEM fields. Additionally, we plan a career fair each year to expose students to different STEM career paths. Students and teachers from the local high school and ACE present at the STEM Career Day.
A celebrated strength is how we have worked to improve and expand long term partnerships that support diverse and student-centered learning in the area of STEM. We conscientiously utilize various resources within our community to enhance student learning. Although we consider this a strength, there are still opportunities for growth. A concentrated effort was made to dedicate a professional development session focused on community programs, they service they offer and how to contact the agencies.
One way that we are sustaining a strength is through the commitment of our School Improvement Council to recruit new STEM community partners and is currently active in their search.
Like other schools with a high poverty population, we often cannot use parents as a resource for community involvement therefore we have to search out these community partners.
There is a high commitment of staff and other members of the school community that work very hard to recruit additional community support for the betterment of everyone. Our tireless and creative efforts to being parents into the school are resulting in better attendance at school events.
STANDARD 4 LEADERSHIP: School/program has established a shared vision for STEM and has leadership structures to support effective implementation. INITIATIVES/ACTIONS: - Revising the school mission statement - Developing teachers as leaders
What Does It Look Like?
Beaufort Elementary has developed a shared vision for STEM based on a mindset that students are involved in activities that promote problem solving and critical thinking skills in multiple settings and content areas. The twenty-first century learning practices of critical thinking, creativity, collaboration, and communication are a crucial part of our school mission statement. At Beaufort Elementary School, our belief is that STEM is not something “you do” but is something embedded in “everything you do”, which is reflected in our shared vision and school mission statement.
Our school supports effective implementation of the STEM process by inviting teachers and leaders to develop specific STEM curriculum, present professional development at the school, district, and state levels, and participate in training both locally and nationally. The school leadership team plans for STEM opportunities as evidenced by the school’s master schedule and incorporates schoolwide events such as STEM Career Fair and One School, One Book initiatives. Teachers receive training and support through the STEM Leadership Team and instructional coaches to develop and implement equitable opportunities for students to engage in high quality STEM learning. Additionally, many teachers received training in areas such as Master Naturalist, Clemson Extension, STEM Garden training, and Project Wild that enhance our STEM program.
Our teachers have a commitment to education not only in our building but across the state. Several of our teachers worked with the SC State Department of Education to develop instructional units for the 2014 science standards. Teachers participated in the development of units for the Great American Total Eclipse of 2017. These teachers worked on several grade levels in order to provide quality experiences for students. Included in the units were performance assessments focused on content, but also heavily infused with science and engineering practices. These practices are the cornerstone of STEM learning. More recently we have had several teachers participate on review panels and the writing committee for the South Carolina College and Career Ready Standards for Science 2021. One of our teachers served on the thirteen member team that produced the engineering design process for the South Carolina College and Career Ready Standards for Science 2021 in collaboration with representatives from NASA Langley Research Center, Boeing, and Intelligence for Air Force Global Strike Command among others.
Our engineering teacher, Meredith Rhoden, was a state finalist for 2018 PAEMST award (Presidential Award for Excellence in Math and Science Teaching). Mrs. Rhoden worked as part of the leadership team to ensure that students throughout the building experience quality STEM learning. She has met with teachers to aid in planning STEM experiences and co-teaches lessons when requested. Mrs. Rhoden also supports both school wide and individual teachers by organizing and gathering materials needed for various STEM activities throughout the building.
Our strength is that we have many teachers who have a vested interest in developing opportunities for students to participate in STEM activities that enhance their content knowledge. They seek assistance from various resources on best practices for including STEM in their classroom instruction.
One crucial aspect of our sustainability is that we have very knowledgeable people with various levels of experience in the STEM fields that can assist new teachers and maintain the momentum of our vision for STEM learning. This expertise permits us to provide in house professional development and personal assistance to support effective implementation of STEM.
Teacher turnover rate is one of our biggest challenges. We are constantly training and modeling STEM learning in the building for our new teachers.
One area of improvement would be to continue to increase our knowledge of how to effectively implement STEM skills and practices across all content areas. Just like in the Engineering Design Process, there is always room for improvement. We need to maintain our belief in the idea of collaboration among teachers as being one of the most important aspects of ensuring the consistency and growth of our STEM program in the future.