Becomes just the third elementary school in Georgia to achieve STEM certification for integrating Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics into everyday lessons across subjects
DUNWOODY, GA (Oct. 3, 2014) — A three-year effort to unify a new elementary school has culminated in a rare distinction from the Georgia Department of Education, as Dunwoody Elementary School was certified this week as a ‘STEM’ school.
Dunwoody Elementary becomes the third elementary school in DeKalb County — and the 10th overall statewide for all school levels — to earn the STEM designation , which refers to success in integrating science, technology, engineering, and mathematics in all subjects. The other two STEM certified schools in DeKalb County are Henderson Mill Elementary and Hightower Elementary.
“This is an outstanding achievement by the faculty, staff, and parents of Dunwoody Elementary,” said Michael Thurmond, superintendent of DeKalb County Schools. “This teamwork demonstrates what can be accomplished when everyone works together for the common good of the students.”
STEM initiatives were started at the federal level to help the United States catch up to other countries that were more advanced in industries requiring STEM skills. A STEM program focuses on integrating STEM principles, such as problem solving and collaboration, across all subjects. Journals are used by students to improve writing skills, and to document the learning process. STEM is integrated into physical education, art, and music lessons.
“STEM is truly a paradigm shift in how we approach and teach science and math,” said Jennifer P. Sanders, principal of Dunwoody Elementary. “It is a way to capture a child’s natural curiosity to help them learn.”
On Monday, September 29, a committee of seven experts from across Georgia and the Department of Education visited Dunwoody Elementary to determine if the school met the criteria of the certification requirements. Headed by Dr. Gilda Lyon, STEM Coordinator for the State of Georgia, the panel informed Sanders on Wednesday that the school had met STEM standards.
Sanders said, “As we apply for grants to support our future projects, the STEM designation will add validation to our requests.”
She said she has already received requests from other schools wanting to observe the STEM program at Dunwoody Elementary.
“As our teachers and students embarked upon the STEM certification effort, we began to see the enthusiasm and excitement from our children. Everyone saw the certification as a way to revolutionize the way we teach science and math,” Sanders said.
Already, in the first full year of implementing the STEM program, children in third and fifth grades have increased their science accountability testing scores between 5 and 6 percentage points.
Sanders said, “Education became fun for both teachers and students.”
Parents in STEM careers have joined the effort, along with a host of businesses and community institutions. Among other things, they helped build organic gardens, a LEGO lab, and a nature trail. A Macintosh computer lab will open soon, which will enhance STEM instruction throughout the school.
Contributors to the Dunwoody Elementary STEM program included: the Gwinnett Heritage and Environmental Center, the National Wildlife Federation, Forest Investment Associates, the U.S. Geological Survey, Dunwoody Urgent Care and Georgia Perimeter College.
“I am thrilled beyond words to have achieved STEM certification,” Sanders said. “I am overwhelmed by the support and talent of our teachers, and I am amazed at the spirit our students have shown in the pursuit of this title. STEM has brought our community together with hard work and determination. .”
Dunwoody Elementary has 930 students from Pre-K to 5th grade.