After five years of hard work, it was party time at M. Agnes Jones Elementary School on Tuesday as the school celebrated becoming the first Atlanta Public School to earn STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) certification.
The school held a pep rally featuring Atlanta Public Schools Superintendent Meria J. Carstarphen and State Schools Superintendent Richard Woods. Prior to the rally, Dr. Carstarphen and Woods were taken on a tour of the school’s urban farm where students are growing lettuce, spinach, carrots, collards and basil. Students are also caring for the farm’s two chickens – Coco Puff and Valentine.
M.A. Jones Principal Margul Woolfolk said the five-year journey to become a certified STEM school was well worth it. Instead of teaching science, technology, engineering and math in isolation, the STEM schools feature an integrated curriculum driven by problem solving, discovery, exploratory project/problem-based learning and student-centered development of ideas and solutions. It helps prepare students for success in the 21st century workforce.
“I wanted this to be sustainable for the long term, and so it took some time for all of our teachers to be certified in STEM. Also, being a charter system gave us autonomy with our funds so that we could adequately support STEM,” Woolfolk said. “It’s having an impact on our students and the community.”
State Superintendent Richard Woods read to third- and fifth-grade students at Cascade Elementary School Thursday, to celebrate National Agricultural Literacy Day.
The annual observance was launched in 1973. It is designed to promote a better understanding of how food, fiber and renewable resource products are produced; highlight the essential role of agriculture in maintaining a strong economy; illustrate the role agriculture plays in providing safe, abundant and affordable product; and showcase various career opportunities in the agriculture, food, fiber and renewable resource industries.
Cascade is one of the many Atlanta Public Schools with a community garden that features various plants, flowers and foods.
When Atlanta Public Schools Nutrition Director Dr. Marilyn Hughes came to the district her vision was to create a nutrition program that connected the cafeteria, the classroom and the community.
More than a decade later that vision is a reality at a number of schools throughout the district, including Mays High School, where its teachers and students have established one of the state’s top agriculture clubs. The concept of healthy living is infused into the school culture through its participation in the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) “Farm to School” program. The national initiative is designed to help schools provide access to fresh, organically grown food for students and their communities.
Last week, USDA Under Secretary Kevin Concannon stopped by to tour Mays’ greenhouse and aquaponics classroom, where fresh fish (tilapia) and vegetables are raised and grown, and the school cafeteria, where the food is prepared and eaten. He left very impressed.
“We want to change the image of the urban food program,” Dr. Hughes said. “We want to broaden it so that we constantly make that connection between the cafeteria, the classroom and the community. We want people to think of our communities as places where you eat, work and live a healthy lifestyle. In order for it to be sustainable, we have to have collective ownership by the students, teachers and the community.”
At Mays, all three groups have bought in. Students have created one of the state’s top agriculture clubs, teachers are infusing agriculture and “green living” concepts into their lessons, from science to social studies and history, and the community is involved as well.
“We have a lot of people who walk on our campus for exercise and they’ll pick things from our traditional garden,” said Sydney Stepney, a senior and participant in the Governor’s Honors Program for Agricultural Sciences. “It’s important that we get back to eating natural foods.”
Sydney said she is inspired by wanting to discover alternative ways to treat debilitating diseases like dementia, which her grandmother is battling now.
“She takes so many pills and I just don’t like it,” Sydney said. “I think all of the diseases that are prevalent in our community, like dementia, diabetes, high blood pressure, are all linked to the foods we eat.”
Sydney, who has been accepted by the University of Kentucky and is in the running for a Posse Scholarship from Texas A&M University, plans to major in nutrition and exercise physiology, open a fitness center that will include and utilize an urban garden, and create her own natural multi vitamin.
The school’s agriculture club and “Farm to School” program are designed to produce more students like Sydney who may be able to take advantage of the country’s “green” movement and the growing popularity of organically grown and raised food.
Mays Assistant Principal Dr. Wardell Hunter and Instructional Coach Hajj Womack spoke with United States Congressmen John Lewis and David Scott about the importance of agriculture in schools. Both said they are working on legislation that promotes making college scholarship funds available for students majoring in agriculture.
“It’s something that Republicans and Democrats can get behind,” Womack said. “Agriculture is very important to our country, and it would provide excellent opportunities for our students.”
South Atlanta High School is quickly becoming a hub for innovative measures that will improve the lives of its students.
First came the establishment of the school’s Automotive Basic Maintenance and Light Repair Lab, courtesy of $150,000-worth of equipment from Kaufman Tires. Now South Atlanta is about to become the first Atlanta Public School high school with a ZSpace Technology Lab.
ZSpace is a state-of-the-art learning tool that allows teachers and students to use virtual reality and three-dimensional imagery in the classroom. The technology can be used across the curriculum, from science and art to language arts and math. Currently, Cleveland Avenue and M.A. Jones Elementary Schools, along with Brown Middle School, have ZSpace labs.
Teachers at South Atlanta were able to sample the technology when the ZSpace Technology Mobile Computer Lab visited the campus recently.
“This is where job training is going in the future. In fact, it’s already here,” said Joe Parlier, a sales associate for Vizitech USA, one of the companies that sells ZSpace labs. He pointed out that the Georgia Department of Transportation uses ZSpace virtual reality computer labs to train its employees. “This is how many organizations and companies are training their employees, and so this is how we should be preparing our students to be successful.”
One of the thousands of ZSpace educational programs allows a user to don a pair of virtual reality goggles, highlight a human heart and examine a three-dimensional image of the heart, inside and out.
South Atlanta Principal Dr. Patricia Ford plans to have a full ZSpace computer lab, with 12-15 stations, up and running in the school before the end of this school year. She believes using ZSpace Technology aligns perfectly with the school’s long term curriculum plan of focusing on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math).
“Our students and our teachers are really excited about this,” Ford said. “I think it will increase our students’ love of learning. ZSpace Technology provides a means for learning through exploring, and it will increase our students’ skill sets in science and STEM. When you put on those goggles you can be transported anywhere in the universe and pick up and examine almost any object. It will be a fantastic learning tool for our students.”
APS students and teachers are celebrating Georgia STEMDay today throughout the district! STEMDay is an opportunity for our teachers to get students engaged in science, technology, engineering and math activities. Check out the photos below to see how some of our APS students are spending their day!
Curious second and third graders at Burgess-Peterson Academy got their first hands-on experience with the school’s new STE(A)M truck this week. Students were able to touch and play with items on the mobile learning facility which is dedicated to the Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math experience.
The truck serves as a mobile innovation lab and allows students to tackle problems using real tools and modern technology under the guidance of community experts. Children and local artists worked together to tinker, design and build solutions in a fun, educational environment. The students’ first challenge was to create an object made of paper using at least three folds that could hold pennies. The student whose design held the most pennies won.
Principal Robin Robbins is excited that students have the opportunity to collaborate at this level. “I am hopeful that my students will take advantage of authentic learning by engaging in projects which use critical thinking and problem-solving while sparking students’ interest in STEAM related careers,” said Ms. Robbins.
Principal Robbins applauds the non-traditional approach, “Globally students must begin to learn how to collaborate on real world issues with teams. The experience will also hopefully launch our students into careers and educational opportunities where minorities have been underrepresented. Having the STEAM truck here for 20 consecutive days will allow my students the opportunity to execute a plan from beginning to end”.
The truck will be parked at Burgess-Peterson until the end of the school year, a great way to make a lasting impression on these inspiring young minds!
The Georgia Milestones Assessment System (Georgia Milestones) is a comprehensive summative assessment program spanning grades 3 through high school. Georgia Milestones measures how well students have learned the knowledge and skills outlined in the state-adopted content standards in language arts, mathematics, science, and social studies. Students in grades 3 through 8 will take an end-of-grade assessment in each content area, while high school students will take an end-of-course assessment for each of the eight courses designated by the State Board of Education.
Features the Georgia Milestone Assessment System include: open-ended (constructed-response) items in language arts and mathematics (all grades and courses); a writing component (in response to passages read by students) at every grade level and course within the language arts assessment;norm-referenced items in all content areas and courses, to complement the criterion-referenced information and to provide a national comparison; and
transition to online administration over time, with online administration considered the primary mode of administration and paper-pencil as back-up until the transition is complete.