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 




What Does It Look Like?

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 teaches them coding in addition to the 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 once 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.




After our initial certification, the STEM leadership team discussed how we wanted to proceed with growing STEM in our school. One of the specific initiatives that has been put in place is multiple in-house professional development sessions that provide teachers the knowledge to gain confidence in including STEM in their curriculum. One area that we have noticed progress is within the Montessori classrooms. They used to rely solely on their established Montessori curriculum, but now that they had more training in STEM, they are incorporating STEM lessons regularly. Some examples include "Shoes Across Africa '' and "Camel Racing" challenges. For several years now, we have 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, 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 mind. The discussions 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® bricks.

We realized that we needed to place more emphasis on including our families in our STEM journey. We began by having a STEM night where families came to learn about STEM practices 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 out of school! Thefamily night is always a great deal of fun as parents work with their children to create their solutions to the instant challenges.

The School Improvement Council also worked to increase STEM experiences at Beaufort Elementary. One of their 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 exposure to vocabulary and creation of background knowledge these experiences provide will help prepare these students for future learning.

Strengths

Our strength is the intentionality with which we plan and carry out the STEM initiatives to provide a multitude of experiences for students in our building. The dedication of core team members to ensure that STEM is implemented with fidelity across our curriculum.

Sustainability

Leadership decisions allocate funds for the field trips and supplies to support STEM through the use of Title I money. The SIC provides input on the decisions about how federal money will be spent so that it is most beneficial to student achievement.

Challenges

An area we would like to improve upon is the level of parent and community involvement.

Continuous Improvement

We strive to include more involvement in the planning and implementation of STEM activities and challenges. A goal of our SIC is to find STEM based community partners to interact with the students.