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.”
Chevron Corporation hopes to grow the next generation of scientist, engineers and chemists by cultivating a love for science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) in today’s youth. Thanks to the company’s “Fuel Your School” initiative, they may have found several at West Manor Elementary School.
Three teachers at West Manor received awards from Chevron Corporation last week, after they submitted ideas to Donors.Choose.org, an online organization that helps teachers get small projects funded through community donations. Chevron’s “Fuel Your School” program is collaborating with Donors.Choose.org, and has helped raise more than $300 million for STEM-based projects and initiatives worldwide since 2013.
West Manor’s Carla Anderson (gifted), who serves as the coordinator of the school’s award-winning robotics team, received four Lego Robotics Kits, worth about $1,300. Additionally, she received equipment and materials, such as tape measures and litmus paper, to use in STEM-related classroom projects such as kitchen science and forensic science experiments.
“We’re always looking for more resources to be able to do projects that get our kids excited and motivated about STEM,” Anderson said, “so when you don’t have those materials it’s disappointing. Our P.T.A. (Parent Teacher Association) has been really good about supporting us, but this assistance from Chevron is great.”
Jeff Swindell, manager of Chevron’s Policy, Government and Public Affairs, said his company’s dedication to education is a winning proposition for all involved – Chevron, the schools and the nation.
“STEM is the foundation for the future of our country,” he said. “We need our kids to have an interest in it and a passion for it, so that we can produce that next generation of professionals working with computers and in medicine and chemistry. We hope that our schools and our country will benefit in the long run, and maybe someday one of these talented students will want to work for Chevron.”
While the gift to Anderson was planned, Swindell made surprise presentations to Dietrice Bennett (fifth grade) and Mariel Lawrence (third grade). Bennett received a three-dimensional printer while Lawrence received 18 tablets for her class.
“It was absolutely a total shock,” said Lawrence, who will use the tablets to set up some distance-learning projects for her students. “I’m so excited about all the possibilities this will produce 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.”
Members of the Atlanta Public Schools (APS) leadership team recently surprised several employees with news that they will be honored for their contributions to helping APS achieve its mission and vision. The honors include Principal of the Year, Assistant Principal of the Year, Schools First Award, Students First Award, Districtwide Partner of the Year Award and School-Based Partnership Award.
The winners will be honored during the inaugural APS Employee Recognition Celebration ceremony at 5 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 29, 2015 at the Omni Atlanta Hotel at CNN Center, 100 CNN Center, NW, Atlanta, GA 30303.
Each year, APS employees are nominated by their peers for awards in each category. Nominated employees are judged based on their accomplishments, work history, community service and professional honors. This year, the district expanded the recognition ceremony to include employees who are inspiring and guiding students. The new categories recognize support staff and administrators who play a critical role in educating students. The 2015-2016 Employee Recognition Award winners are:
Principal of the Year – Trennis Harvey, Heritage Academy
Atlanta native Trennis Harvey has served as principal of Heritage Academy for seven years. As an educator for the last 20 years, Harvey has dedicated his career to instilling a love of learning in children from all walks of life, in particular, in students
who come from environments where survival is the top priority with education being a close second. He is an energetic educator who makes learning fun for children and adult learners as well. Over the last three years, Heritage Academy has made enough progress to be removed from the Georgia Focus Schools List during the 2014-2015 school year. This progress includes closing the achievement gap of students with disabilities, increasing math proficiency levels from 54 to 84 percent and writing proficiency from 69 to 90 percent. Harvey attributes this accomplishment to a staff who embraces challenge and change and believes in the Heritage Academy mission of creating students who are excellent readers, dynamic mathematicians, and critical thinkers committed to making their community a better place to live. Harvey is a graduate of APS’ Benjamin E. Mays High School, Morehouse College and Brenau University. He was classroom teacher for nine years before serving in leadership roles in education.
Assistant Principal of the Year – Lakeesha Ramdhanie, KIPP STRIVE Primary School
Lakeesha Ramdhanie’s deep passion for Atlanta’s students and community inspired her to help establish the Atlanta’s first KIPP elementary school, KIPP STRIVE Primary (KSP). For the past four years, Ms. Ramdhanie has served as STRIVE’s Assistant Principal, contributing her expertise in early childhood education and literacy instruction. Ms. Ramdhanie’s deep passion for literacy led her to be nominated by her peers to serve as the Regional Literacy Coordinator. With her leadership, she has guided the scholars at KSP to earn designation as top performers in both math and reading for three consecutive years. Prior to coming to Atlanta, Ramdhanie was a founding kindergarten teacher at SPARK Academy in New Jersey. Ramdhanie earned degree in Psychology in 2009 from Spelman College and last summer, she completed the master’s degree program at Columbia University’s Principals Academy.
Schools First Award – Sheral Kemp-Mizell, Supervisor, Department of Transportation
Veteran transportation supervisor Sheral Kemp-Mizell enjoys working with special needs children and elderly citizens. She started her career in transportation working extensively with students who have special needs from 1973 to 1979, when she was a bus driver and classroom assistant at the Cerebral Palsy Center. During that time, she volunteered with the local and national Special Olympics competition. For a decade, Kemp-Mizell continued to operate in her passion with Lanell’s Transportation Company as a special needs bus driver, route coordinator, and dispatcher. Kemp-Mizell’s career
continued with Atlanta Public Schools in 1988 as a special needs bus driver, dispatcher and now, cluster transportation supervisor. She is a certified school bus driver trainer where she is cultivating the careers of other drivers. Kemp-Mizell is an avid volunteer. She participates in and coordinates groups to adopt children, families, and the elderly for Thanksgiving and Christmas through the provision of toys, school supplies, clothes and meals. Her motto is “Every day is a blessing.”
Students First Award – Tiarra Moore, Instructional Coach and STEM Coordinator, Crawford W. Long Middle School
Tiarra Moore became a science teacher at Crawford Long Middle School through the Teach for America program in 2002. As a Long Middle School educator, Moore has created numerous programs and initiatives including a recycling program, wellness initiatives for students and teachers, the school’s first organic garden and fruit orchard, and inquiry-based science teaching and learning, which has increased standardized test scores in science. In addition to implementing academic initiatives, Moore has established numerous business partnerships for Long Middle including NeuroNexus, Inc., Northside Hospital, the Captain Planet Foundation, Emory University, the Atlanta Botanical Gardens, the Whole Kids Foundation, the YWCA’s Teen Girls in Technology Program, Georgia Power, Kroger, and the Jonesboro Road Home Depot. She has also garnered $35,000 in grant money for Long Middle within the last four years. Her latest accomplishment is establishing Long Middle School as a Project Lead the Way (PLTW) campus to deliver engineering and computer science courses to a cohort of sixth grade students.
APS Districtwide Partnership Award – Achieve Atlanta
This school year, Achieve Atlanta launched a $20 million initiative to increase dramatically the number of APS graduates who enter college and successfully graduate from colleges and technical schools. Achieve Atlanta advisers are at APS high schools to connect students to post-secondary institution advisers and financial packages to help close the college funding gap. Achieve Atlanta was created in partnership by The Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta, the Joseph B. Whitehead Foundation and APS.
APS School Partnership Award – IBM Corporation
The IBM Corporation has provided a wealth of support to students at L.J. Price Middle School for nearly a decade. Most notably, since 2007, IBM has bolstered the STEM educational experiences for students through its I.G.N.I.T.E (Igniting Interest in Technology and Engineering) and E.X.I.T.E (Exploring Interest in Technology and Engineering) Technology academies. During the two technology academies, members of the IBM family work with Price students on various activities that hone their skills in science technology engineering and math. The success of this partnership can be measured by the increase in students’ test scores, number of students completing fair projects, and the increase in the school’s College and Career Readiness Performance Index (CCRPI) score.
This year’s event is an expansion of the annual APS Districtwide Teacher of the Year ceremony. APS teachers Dennis Toliver of Grove Park Intermediate School, Travis Brown of Sylvan Hills Middle School and J. Scott Allen of Henry W. Grady High School were named finalists for the 2015-2016 Districtwide APS Teacher of the Year award the week of October 16. The winner will be announced during the ERC ceremony October 29 and will move on to compete for Georgia Teacher of the Year.
As a part of Teen Tech Week, volunteers from Best Buy will host an Hour of Code workshop in the South Atlanta High School media center on March 11, 2015 at 3:30 p.m. The workshop will help students with their digital literacy skills and introduce them to the basics of coding.
South Atlanta was one of 11 sites nationwide chosen to host this event. Shanna Miles, media specialist at South Atlanta,spearheaded the partnership and says that this is a great opportunity for APS students. “We’re partnering with Best Buy to introduce our students to opportunities in the STEM fields. Many students of color and girls are under-represented in the field. By exposing them early on, we may be able to spark an interest that blooms into a future career,” said Miles.
Usher-Collier Elementary hosted STEM Day program activities for the 2014 2nd annual Georgia STEM Day earlier this spring. The activities consisted of both a STEM CAREER DAY and their end of the year Engineering Design Challenge.
STEM professionals from all over the Atlanta metro area visited Usher-Collier Elementary to speak to students about what it’s like to be a STEM career professional.
STEM Career Day professional participants included an engineer from the United States Army, Apple and Microsoft technicians, a local funeral home director, budget director and 3D printing specialist.
In addition to the STEM Career Day, students participated in their end of the year Engineering Design Challenge. Students, all grade levels, were charged with the task to create the tallest freestanding structure that could support a marshmallow using only raw spaghetti pasta, tape, and a string with an eighteen-minute window of time.
Amazingly, many of the students were able to meet the challenge by working together in teams, using their imagination and creativity while following the engineering process to build their structures.
In the true mission of STEM, Usher-Collier Elementary shared their love of the initiative by reaching out to other elementary schools in the district and invited them to a whimsical day of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.
Usher-Collier hosted thirty students and four educators from surrounding elementary schools who have an interest in STEM.
Students who visited the school rotated through four stations learning a different STEM lesson at each stop. Stations included, the i-Movie station, science lab, 3D station, and the astrological engineering station. Students learned how to create movies, weather instruments and 3D products. They were also given a real world problem that challenged them to build a spaceship with shock absorbers that would safely land two astronauts on planet Mars.
Usher-Collier future scientists and engineers were fascinated with the exposure they received and were left truly motivated to seek more knowledge and skills as it relates to STEM.