West Georgia Schools S.T.E.A.M. ahead

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Are your kids S.T.E.A.M.ed? Nov. 8 is National S.T.E.M. Day, a day meant to inspire kids to experiment, investigate, and explore Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. In many programs, the acronym is S.T.E.A.M., adding Art to the mix.

Schools in West Georgia and East Alabama are on board the S.T.E.A.M. train, not only incorporating exciting lessons into the curriculum but hosting special events for students and parents as well.

Bremen City Schools held a S.T.E.A.M Expo on Oct. 25, 2016, with lessons on conductors and electricity, good health, and crickets. The evening also included a scavenger hunt.

Silas Brown, principal of Jones Elementary School, said the night was filled with learning but was also “just a great night all the way around.”

“It was a fun night of watching parents and kids immerse themselves in the world of S.T.E.A.M.,” Brown said. “A lot of times parents hear bits and pieces of what their kids are doing at school. The S.T.E.A.M. Expo was a great opportunity for parents to see their kids engaging in hands-on science, technology, engineering, art, and math activities. It was really nice to see both parents and kids so excited about learning.”

Another benefit? Teachers were able to express their creative side in designing and implementing activities to do with the kids. When teachers are excited, kids get excited, which is why the University of West Georgia is leading the way in training highly qualified math and science teachers through the UTeach Program.

Students in UTeach graduate with a major in a content area (Biology, Chemistry, Geosciences, Computer Science, Mathematics, or Physics) with the option of earning an education concentration that qualifies them for teacher certification.

According to the UWG UTeach website, the program “is designed to create high quality S.T.E.M. teachers who have a passion for their subject. They will then carry forward and instill that passion for S.T.E.M. subjects in their students, hopefully creating a generation that is well educated in math and science.”

The S.T.E.M./S.T.E.A.M. movement is a response to research by the National Math + Science Initiative that suggests the “U.S. is failing to produce and retain sufficient numbers of qualified math and science teachers to keep America internationally competitive (National Math + Science Initiative).”
The National Math + Science Initiative (NMS) estimates that the U.S. will need 100,000 more math and science teachers by 2020. According to the NMS data, “88 percent of UTeach graduates nationwide go on to teach in math and science classrooms, often in high-need schools.”

It’s not only teachers who are needed, however. Technology careers are among some of the fastest growing occupations in the U.S. and globally. Many of the jobs predicted to be most in demand in the next decade are S.T.E.M./S.T.E.A.M. careers, according to the U.S. Labor Department.

That’s one reason the Georgia Department of Education has made S.T.E.M. a priority throughout the state. According to the STEMGA.org website, the goal of S.T.E.M. education is “an integrated curriculum … driven by problem solving, discovery, exploratory project/problem-based learning, and student-centered development of ideas and solutions.”

The ever-increasing presence of technology in our daily lives also highlights the need for skills in these disciplines.

“The saturation of technology in most fields means that all students – not just those who plan to pursue a S.T.E.M. profession – will require a solid foundation in S.T.E.M. to be productive members of the workforce.”

In 2013, Carrollton Elementary School became the first K-3 elementary in the state to become a Georgia Department of Education S.T.E.M.-certified school. The S.T.E.M. emphasis continues to grow in Carrollton City Schools.

Carroll County Schools also has a strong S.T.E.M. emphasis. Central High School has been named to the Georgia Department of Education Advanced Placement (AP) S.T.E.M. Achievement School list by the College Board because of its multiple advanced course offerings in S.T.E.M.-related disciplines. Nearly 350 students complete coursework in AP sections at Central High School annually.

Principal Jared Griffis said he is especially proud of the students and teachers who made the AP STEM Achievement School designation possible.

“Central had 50% of the students in our AP math and AP science classes score a 3 or higher on their AP exams. 33% scored a 4 or higher. I could not be more proud of the efforts of our great students and teachers. We will continue to ensure that Central High School offers students premier academic opportunities such as our Advanced Placement program.”

There’s no doubt S.T.E.A.M. power is building in schools throughout West Georgia and preparing students for life and work in this century. That’s just another reason West Georgia is a great place to call home.

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