So what does STEM/STEAM look like in Gwinnett schools?
“STEM and STEAM engages all types of students in integrated math and science, which prepares them for college and career opportunities,” says Bonnie Brush, GCPS’ mathematics director and part of the district’s STEM Team. She notes that this instructional approach takes students from knowledge to application to innovation, adding “By expanding STEM and STEAM learning opportunities, our schools are encouraging students at all levels to apply their learning as they creatively solve real-world problems, think in innovative ways, and engage with their community.”
With seven designations, GCPS has the largest number of state STEM/STEAM-certified schools and programs in Georgia, including:
- Gwinnett School of Science, Mathematics, and Technology (GSMST)— STEM school certification
- Center for Design and Technology (CDAT) at Lanier HS (STEM program certification)
- White Oak ES (STEM school certification)
- STEM Program for Innovation Rigor Excellence (SPIRE) at Peachtree Ridge HS (STEM program certification)
- Teamwork With Innovative Skills and Technology (TWIST) at Lanier MS (STEM program certification)
- Mason ES (STEM school certification)
- Coleman MS (STEAM school certification)
The path to STEM certification involves a partnership between the school, the district’s STEM team, and the Georgia Department of Education over the course of three years. During that time, regular site visits allow district content experts to observe and support the development of rigorous and integrated STEM instruction, ensuring that teachers have opportunities for professional development and collaborative planning with colleagues.
In addition, the school must meet specific criteria, including evidence of teacher collaboration, business and industry partnerships, high levels of math and science instruction, and an integrated, project-based STEM curriculum. The process culminates with a final visit by a team from the Georgia Department of Education to observe these instructional elements in action.
STEAM is the integration of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics infused with meaningful arts integration. STEAM utilizes the arts as a vehicle for demonstrating what has been learned, while increasing creativity and teaching “habits of mind” that can be applied to any subject. The STEAM Georgia certification program aligns with the STEM Georgia certification program and the two programs share a common vocabulary, timeline, and design.
The school district is a model for STEM/STEAM instruction and has a number of statewide distinctions. Here are just a few GCPS “firsts” in the area of STEM/STEAM:
- Coleman MS is the first certified STEAM middle school in the state, and just the second in Georgia to earn STEAM School Certification.
- With the certification of White Oak ES and programs at Lanier MS and Lanier HS, the Lanier Cluster has the distinction of being the first public schools with vertical STEM articulation, meaning that a student in the Lanier Cluster could participate in a STEM-certified program at every school level, K-12.
Dr. Jeff Mathews, Peachtree Ridge HS principal, is the first administrator in the state to lead two schools through the STEM Certification process. He also led GSMST’s certification bid in 2012-13.