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STEM Academy offers students early college prep

By Beth Hyatt
The Greenville Advocate

This year, three schools in Greenville will get the chance to implement a new form of learning into their curriculum.

Greenville Elementary School, W.O. Parmer Elementary School and Greenville Middle School will play host to a new program in learning called the STEM Academy. STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math and will work with students to help them become more engaged in learning.

The schools will also be partnering with Science in Motion to implement Engineering is Elementary. These programs offer a more hands on approach to problem solving and actively engage students.

“The idea behind the STEM Academy is to offer a more rigorous curriculum. We’ll still cover the same standards that the state department has assigned for each grade level, but the work will be more rigorous. It will be more project based, we’ll do more novel studies and teach that way instead of utilizing textbooks as much,” said Kent McNaughton, principal of GES.

The program is offered to second through sixth grades and will be used at the three previously mentioned schools. It offers a much more detailed curriculum for the students that involves higher educational performance expectations, as well as parental involvement. Parents will be required to attend meetings discussing the program and what will be expected of their child. In order to stay in the program, students must maintain a 70 average. If they fall below 70, they will be returned to regular classes. Students and parents must read and sign consent forms before enrolling in the program. This gives students and parents the opportunity to see what will be required before committing to the program. The teachers at GES that will participate in the program are Jessica Hickman and Mallie Kilpatrick, third grade, and Nikki Cook and Bendy Cook, fourth grade.

“There will be a rubric formulated with specific criteria used for admission into the STEM Academy. The administrative staff will compile the data to determine which students qualify for admission to the program,” said McNaughton.

The students who qualified were notified on May 26.

Since the program is new, McNaughton wants the parents to be as involved as possible to ensure their support of the curriculum. He wants the parents to stay just as informed on the program as the students.

“The hope of this is that the students that want to go on to a tech school or college, whatever their goals are, we hope they are better prepared by taking these classes. We want them to be put in real life situations where they are challenged just like all of us at work,” said McNaughton.

The program works to incorporate real life situations and problem solving techniques into the classroom to ensure that students are more prepared to handle these difficult situations when they arise. While the original program only included science, technology, engineering and math, McNaughton also will include reading courses in the curriculum. When McNaughton was first hired, he expressed a desire to implement a program like STEM before he even knew one existed. McNaughton, Dr. Tera Simmons and other representatives from the school system then spent over a year developing the program.

“I think we have put a lot of time and effort into this and I think we have developed a great program, but the real proof is going to be in this upcoming year. We will be seeing how it all works out, and I shared with the parents that we may have to go back and tweak some things and make some minor adjustments once we actually put it into practice,” said McNaughton.