Standard 15

STANDARD 15 

STRATEGIC MANAGEMENT: School/program engages in a continuous improvement process for STEM.

INITIATIVES/ACTIONS: 
- Providing training, support, and supplies to help teachers to implement STEM
- Purposeful planning for growth in the areas of STEM 




Since the inception of our school-wide STEM initiative, staff members have been engaged in a continuous improvement process. The STEM leadership team has observed a marked increase over time of STEM implementation. We have altered our schedule to include engineering for all students in grades three through five. Computer science has been added for all students which teach them coding in addition to computer science and digital learning standards. In order to have a consistent language, we have adjusted our Lego Lab curriculum to reflect the school-wide use of the engineering design process. A Makerspace studio has been incorporated into the learning commons (media center) where students have free choice opportunities to develop reasoning skills and creativity. Each year we have seen an increase in the STEM processes being incorporated by teachers in all content areas. In fact, there has been a huge commitment from social studies teachers who were reluctant to include STEM integration into their content instruction. Now, they rave about how much more the students learn through doing STEM activities correlated to what they are teaching. Projects such as Trench Warfare, The Hooverville Shanty, Assembly Lines, and the Oxidation of the Statue of Liberty are making history come to life for these students.

self-eficacy

After our initial certification, the STEM Leadership Team had a discussion about how we wanted to proceed with growing STEM in our school. One of the specific initiatives that have been put in place is multiple in-house professional development sessions that provide teachers with knowledge so that they have more confidence to include STEM in their curriculum. One area that we have noticed a lot of growth is within the Montessori classrooms. They used to rely solely on their established Montessori curriculum, but now that they have had more training in STEM, they are incorporating STEM lessons. Some examples include "Shoes Across Africa '' and "Camel Racing" challenges. For several years, we had STEM challenge days for all students in our building. Each year we add additional opportunities for school-wide STEM challenges. The challenges were judged by local community members and educators. For example, through our One School, One Book initiative where teachers implement STEM challenges based on the contents of the book and grade-level standards. The whole school celebrated the completion of the book by coming to the engineering lab to test the various ship designs they had created. What type of boat can hold the most weight and who can get to safety the fastest as they raced down the inflatable waterway were questions on everyone's minds. The discussions by the students on how to make improvements to their ships were rich and insightful. Many teachers added additional STEM projects based on the novel such as constructing clock towers and creating the setting for the story out of Lego®.

We realized that we needed to put more emphasis on including our families. We began by having a STEM night where families came to learn about STEM and participate in a STEM challenge. We have expanded this night to provide parents with suggestions as to how they can use everyday items to provide these types of learning experiences at home. Families who win the challenge get a prize and all children receive a small take-home item to help them be creative! The night with families is always a great deal of fun as parents work together to create their solutions to instant challenges.

The School Improvement Council has also worked to increase STEM here at Beaufort Elementary. One of the first initiatives was to plan STEM-related field trips throughout the state of South Carolina. If you were in attendance from Pre-K to 5th grade, you would have experienced seven different STEM field trips as related to grade-level standards. Many of these students would never have the benefit of going to the South Carolina Aquarium, the Riverbanks Zoo, riding a boat at the Maritime Center, visiting a planetarium, or going to Edventure if not through school. The vocabulary building and background knowledge these experiences provide will help these students progress way into the future. These field trips were funded through the use of Title I money. This is another decision that the SIC helps to make as they decide how the spending of federal money will be most beneficial. Now, their goal is to find STEM-based community partners to interact with the students.

One area of weakness is our lack of parent involvement. We strive to include more parent involvement in the planning and implementation of STEM activities and challenges.