It’s Official! M.A. Jones Elementary is APS’ First Certified STEM School

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Georgia Schools Superintendent Richard Woods (Back row, left to right), APS Superintendent Meria J. Carstarphen and M.A. Jones Elementary School Principal Margul Woolfolk celebrate with students at a ceremony to honor M.A. Jones’ official recognition as a STEM school.

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 raM.A. Jones ES garden (carrots)lly, 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.

M.A. Jones ES STEM celebration (Dr. C and robot)“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.”

 

 

 

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USDA Official Visits Mays High School to see Successful Farm-to-School Program

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United States Department of Agriculture Under Secretary Kevin Concannon learns about the Mays High School greenhouse and its use of aquaponics from senior Sydney Stepney during his visit to the campus.

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.usda-under-sec-concannon-at-mays-hs-12-8-16

“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.”

usda-under-sec-concannon-at-mays-hs-greenhouse-2-12-7-16Sydney, 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.”

E-SPLOST Dollars Would Be Spread Throughout District

The merger of  Woodson Primary (left) and Grove Park Intermediate Schools, which would create a new $18.5M Woodson Park Elementary, is on the list of proposed building projects that could be completed with the renewal of E-SPLOST.

 

Click here to see the E-SPLOST video!

Building and improvement projects in all nine Atlanta Public Schools clusters are part of the spending plan for the $546 million that could result from the renewal of a proposed Educational Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (E-SPLOST).

The renewal of this one-penny sales tax will be on the ballot during the General Primary Election, Tuesday, May 24. The E-SPLOST would fund major construction projects, renovate school buildings, provide state-of-the-art technology, upgrade athletic fields, demolish dilapidated structures, relieve overcrowding in some schools, pay for new school buses, improve safety and security, and provide better infrastructure systems like heating and air.Anticipated Expenditures graphic“Our school system — in partnership with the taxpayers of Atlanta — has made tremendous investments in our schools that have played important roles in community revitalization efforts across this city. Now we have the opportunity to ensure those facilities continue to provide a quality educational experience for our students in the decades to come,” APS Superintendent Meria J. Carstarphen said. “We have a clear, carefully crafted plan for this reinvestment in our kids that would continue our dedication to equity throughout Atlanta Public Schools.”

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Passage of the E-SPLOST renewal would provide $67M for more technological upgrades to APS schools.

Passage of the E-SPLOST renewal would provide $67M for more technological upgrades to APS schools.

APS joins Decatur City Schools, DeKalb County Schools and Fulton County Schools on the        May 24th E-SPLOST referenda. The expiring E-SPLOST, approved by Atlanta, Fulton and DeKalb voters in 2011, is projected to raise approximately $442 million for Atlanta Public Schools, resulting in the completion of major renovation projects in 16 schools, significant HVAC system upgrades in 17 facilities. The district was also able to complete major technology upgrades including the addition of more than 21,000 student desktops to classrooms and labs; the upgrade of network cabling to all classrooms; the upgrade of

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The historic David T. Howard Building would be remodled and transformed into the new Iman Middle School with funds from the E-SPLOST.

network switches and internet services (by ten-fold); and the outfitting of all classrooms, labs, media centers, auditoriums and common areas with full wireless capability, including one wireless access point per classroom.  If voters renew the measure, APS will continue with its aggressive approach toward upgrading, renovating and maintaining school facilities and systems.

The early voting period, which began May 2 at specific locations, will conclude today.

 

Pryor Street ES (Scheduled for Demo)
The old Pryor Street Elementary School facility would be razed with funds from E-SPLOST, if voters renew the one-penny sales tax.

 

 

 

APS Partners with City of Atlanta, Launches the Atlanta ConnectHome Program

By Erica Fatima

The digital inclusion program brings high-speed Internet and technology education to low-income families throughout Metro Atlanta 

Click here to see the ConnectHome video

On Wednesday, Jan. 27, Mayor Kasim Reed announced—to a packed house of eager APS students and their families—the launch of the Atlanta ConnectHome pilot program. ConnectHome is an initiative to narrow the digital divide by providing low-income families and school-age children in the City of Atlanta with Internet services and devices to improve educational outcomes. Mayor Reed was joined by officials from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the Atlanta Housing Authority (AHA), Atlanta Public Schools (APS), as well as various local businesses and community stakeholders for the launch of the ConnectHome program at the Center of Hope at Dunbar Recreation Center in Southwest Atlanta.

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Left to right: Dr. Rubye Sullivan, Executive Director of Data and Information Group; Dunbar ES Principal Karen Brown-Collier; and Dunbar Elementary students

“We are excited and honored to be selected to participate in the #ConnectHomeATL Initiative,” said Mayor Reed. “The Internet is an indispensable tool for accessing educational resources, employment opportunities, health care services, and so much more. Our families and children who now have the opportunity to participate in the ConnectHome program will realize that high-speed broadband is not a luxury, it’s a necessity.”

Dr. Rubye Sullivan, Executive Director of APS’ Data and Information Group, along with APS’ Instructional Technology team presented the new tablets to the families, and provided one-on-one tutorials. The tablets are equipped with APS’ MyBackPack program, Infinite Campus app, Google Chrome and much more.

“Atlanta’s ConnectHome is an awesome program that will provide the connectivity necessary to allow our families the ability to leverage the virtual educational tools available within APS,” stated Dr. Sullivan. “Now our parents can have immediate access to the Internet and can readily connect to the APS Parent Portal and MyBackPack; these tablets bridge the digital divide. All of these tools help us become APS strong!”

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Dr. Rubye Sullivan; Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed; and APS Technology Staff

APS Parkside Elementary parent Patricia Ward stated, “I’m glad that we are getting these tablets and access to free internet. My daughter is in second grade and she will be so happy to have her own tablet. But for me, this is a great teaching tool—I can show her how to search the web—and continue to stimulate her thirst for knowledge.”

Atlanta is one of 27 U.S. cities and one tribal nation chosen by the White House and HUD to participate in the ConnectHome pilot program. The Obama Administration announced the program in July 2015, and will initially provide over 275,000 households and nearly 200,000 children, with the support they need to access the Internet at home.

As part of the launch of the ConnectHome pilot program, more than 100 families received computer devices, free internet service, and digital literacy training that will connect families with educational resources as well as job training.

“We are excited to work with the Mayor to provide Internet access to our families,” said Joy Fitzgerald, Interim President and CEO of the Atlanta Housing Authority. “Access to technology and the Internet put our parents and students on an equal footing, ultimately leading to enriched educational experiences and job opportunities. Digital literacy is the stepping stone for our families to achieve their dreams.”

The City will launch the second phase of the ConnectHome pilot program this summer at the Center of Hope at Adamsville Recreation Center, when more than 500 low-income families who live in HUD-assisted homes will receive the same services.

 

Burgess-Peterson students get on board STE(A)M truck

The STE(A)M truck will be parked at Burgess-Peterson Academy for 20 days.
The STE(A)M truck will be parked at Burgess-Peterson Academy for 20 days.

By Leslie Rivera

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.

Burgess-Peterson Academy students explore Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math on the STE(A)M truck.
Burgess-Peterson Academy students explore Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math on the STE(A)M truck.

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.

Community Guilds, which operates the truck, facilitated funding from the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement (GOSA). The grant allows student access to the mobile maker for 20 days.

Burgess Peterson Students take on a challenge in the STE(A)M truck.
Burgess-Peterson Students take on a challenge in the STE(A)M truck.

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!

Learning Lessons with ActivTable

by Leslie Rivera ActivTable_cleveland_ave_Feb_2015

You may have noticed that the dusty chalkboard many parents grew up with in the classroom has been replaced with the interactive Promethean whiteboard. Now that same technology is promoting hands-on collaboration among students in the form of a table. The ActivTable allows up to six students to interact, share knowledge and work towards a common goal together using interactive technology usually found on electronic whiteboards.

TaiShara Twyman, fourth grade teacher at Gideons Elementary, likes to incorporate it during small group instruction and tutorial. “When students use the ActivTable to interact with one another, essential skills such as communication, problem-solving, and critical thinking are enhanced. All subject areas are easily addressed through the use of preloaded activities, which include history Webquests, vocabulary word sorts, various number sense games, and more,” Twyman explains.

APS Educational Technology Specialist Katrina Stanfield helps teachers identify ways to use the ActivTable in class. “The beauty of this table is that it is also accessible for students with disabilities. It is wheelchair accessible, and promotes differentiation of lessons. Teachers are also able to create activities for their students with the ActivTable Activity Builder, and I have worked with a teacher that created activities for her high school students,” said Stanfield. Cleveland_Ave_ActivTable1The Educational Technology Specialist team stays up to date on new downloads to the software with help from a master Promethean trainer. Krynica Drake, also a member of the APS Educational Technology team, spends much of her time planning and co-teaching in the classroom. She demonstrates for teachers some of the activities that are installed on the table and observes as students develop a mastery of the standards. Drake finds the ActivTable provides an experience that goes beyond a typical computer lab, “Many of the activities provide real world experiences for the students as well as gaming tools that make the learning fun.

The ActivTable also allows the students in groups of 4-6 to engage collaboratively in online activities that would be nearly impossible on a single computer”. Stanfield is a fan of all things Promethean but she enjoys any tool that can enhance learning. “I also enjoy working with iPods, iPads, Chromebooks, and Kindles with teachers and students. Technology that gives students hands-on experiences, allows opportunities for collaboration, enhances learning environments, and functions across multiple curriculums makes me happy,” says Stanfield.

ActivTable_APSTeachers who embrace technology in the classroom agree. Kyera Perry teaches kindergarten at Cleveland Avenue Elementary and feels the ActivTable keeps the students engaged and motivates them to learn, “My students have a very short attention span. I have found that any type of technology integration is beneficial for my students because it holds their attention and they are learning at the same time. I love to hear them say ‘Ms. Perry, this is so much fun!’”