Surry County Schools have signaled it’s full steam ahead with Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) initiatives in its classrooms with an event Tuesday attended by county commissioners, business partners, Surry Community College officials and the Surry County Schools Educational Foundation.
The event was hosted by Gentry Middle School and is designed to be a way of identifying what students need to understand and to be successful in business and their community.
A fire alarm sounded moments before the start of the event as students and dignitaries alike filed out to wait for an all clear signal.
“This is an exciting project. There’s a five-year strategic plan for our STEM initiatives. Welcome and thank you for being here and thank you for participating in our fire drill,” joked Schools Superintendent Dr. Travis Reeves. “Seriously, any day we can showcase our community, staff, and students is a good day. That’s what it is all about.”
Assistant Superintendent, Instructional Services Dr. Terri Mosley told the group this was the second STEM event held in connection with county schools and a lot of progress had been made in one year.
“We are on a groundbreaking journey,” said Mosley. “We want to prepare our students not only for the 21st century but for the century beyond that as well.” She briefed the group on various ongoing projects with Surry Community College and county students which can become four-year programs of study.
She noted the participation of Surry Central High School in the North Carolina New Schools STEM Affinity Network, which will serve as a group developing and sharing project-based learning projects. Surry County Schools have chosen to narrow their focus on aerospace and manufacturing related studies in that collaborative effort which is still in development.
Director of Elementary Curriculum and Instruction Jennifer Scott told the group of a trip by local educators to the Laser Institute in Washington, D.C., through the National Science Resource Center’s Smithsonian Division. This workshop was fully funded by the Burroughs-Welcome foundation.
Scott briefly outlined five components county schools were working on. She said school officials are tracking instructional hours in science classes to determine how to balance instructional time with hands-on experience based questions and projects to better engage students in learning concepts.
She said the second component would concentrate on improving communications about the STEM plan and activities and announced a new logo for STEM had been designed. This component also includes plans on more news releases reaching the community through a variety of media. The third component is more project based learning that will give students real world projects to explore in depth as well the chance to solve problems together.
The fourth component is integrating more technology into the schools. Scott said there was a lot of new technology being introduced daily which could be a resource for students. The fifth component will be to ensure STEM aligns with the state’s Essential Standards and Common Core curriculum.
Professional development is also included in this initiative. Scott said recent studies of local educators indicated many teachers do not feel confident in scientific areas and could be helped by educators who have expertise in these fields.
Director of Secondary Curriculum and Instruction Jill Reinhardt explained how assessments would be used in the STEM initiative. She said the goal of this was to provide ways for teachers to reach deeper understanding and mastery of science content by better learning how to research and communicate. She said participation by business and community partners was crucial.
Reinhardt said the system does plan on seeking funding through a variety of sources and had already been approached by volunteers to help in writing grants. Six stations were set up in the school to showcase project based learning as well as students using math and science for the school’s pinewood derby, the school’s FIRST Lego League teams and Project Lead The Way and Principals in Engineering (POE) at North Surry High School.
Reach David Broyles at email@example.com or 719-1952.