STEAM at Mount Airy Middle comes through more opportunities

David Broyles Staff Reporter

August 25, 2013

Mount Airy Middle School’s integration of Science Technology Engineering Arts and Mathematics (STEAM) will evolve out of a growing movement to get students ready for high school and help them compete with students globally.

“We are making exciting enhancements to our curriculum that are enjoyable, meaningful and engaging to students,” said Principal Susan Bunch. “This involves innovative opportunities for students to explore real world issues and challenges them to think logically and creatively. We really want to reach the individual educational needs of all students.”

Bunch said one important part of this is the planned roll out by this October of a laptop computer for every sixth-grader at the school.

“School wide we are pretty close to achieving the 1:1 program that gives students an teachers access to so many resources,” Bunch said. “It’s going to give so many opportunities for kids to be able to take lessons home and work on them there.”

School STEAM Coordinator Mandy Haymore said this use of technology also makes greater student learning collaboration possible, which goes hand in glove with recent efforts at “flipping” the classroom. This concept refers to a methodology where students use informational software local educators can embed in lessons to understand their homework, which allows students to spend less time on review and more time on the next tasks.

Haymore, who also serves an eighth-grade math and science teacher at the school, said she is excited with opportunities including daily band for students in grades sixth through eighth. Other daily classes students will attend will allow choices including music appreciation and chorus in addition to the core offerings such as math and social studies. Bunch explained the additional offerings amount to “encore” classes offered on a rotating basis.

These encore classes will focus on engineering and design, innovations and entrepreneurship and FACS or finance, architecture and culinary science. Bunch said encore rotation classes will be geared to Academically and Intellectually Gifted (AIG) students.

“These will be super challenging for those in AIG,” said Haymore. She said the school’s extracurricular enrichment opportunities will be helped by getting AIG certification through Duke University for three more teachers within core (curriculum) areas and adding a half-time AIG teacher to the existing staff to support what’s going on in the classroom for all students.

“Our goal is to eventually have all our core teachers AIG certified. This gives us more flexibility,” said Bunch.

Haymore said a recent STEAM showcase night at the school served almost like a job fair for a variety of extracurricular activities at the school such as First Lego League, the Quiz Bowl, a Science Olympiad and writing, art and community problem solving competitions.

“Our teachers are so excited about all of the different things we will offer that are not directly from core curriculum and the kids are picking up that enthusiasm,” said Haymore. “The word is out. I view myself as the big picture person for STEAM and Students With Ambitious Goals (SWAG) offerings. The world is changing so rapidly. Just competition for college now is not just against the student across the aisle, it’s against a student in another country.”

Bunch said all students will still be getting taught subjects which are part of the core curriculum. STEAM and SWAG represent a change for educators who are becoming more like mentors than lecturers. She also added the schools’ athletics program has a lot to offer students, having won seven conference championships last year.

“This (athletics) just adds to the mix to all the other things we offer. We have dedicated and talented coaches.

“This is a huge change for us,” said Bunch.”It’s exciting, but it will be a challenge from what we have seen in the past.”

Reach David Broyles at or 719-1952.