When students leave St. Marys Middle School we want to ensure that they posess the following attributes:
SMMS students will become high school ready while gaining exposure to STEM careers available in the local community and beyond. As SMMS students move on to high school they will have become innovative thinkers, cooperative teammates, effective communicators, dependable workers, and detailed researchers.
SMMS will ensure educational excellence in a safe and nurturing environment to prepare students for success in rigorous high school courses and ultimately, for graduation, transition to college, technical training, or the workplace in order to become lifelong learners and productive citizens.
To prepare students for STEM careers
To make students aware of STEM careers available and their requirements
To prepare students for success in high school and beyond
To create students who are independent learners
To nurture creativity and create innovative thinkers
To offer cooperative learning experiences that will allow students to grow as teammates and communicators
To guide students to become detailed researchers
To demand the accountability that will create dependable workers
"Our STEM Journey"
In 2013, St. Marys Middle School decided that one of our goals was to make the transition from a traditional school to a STEM focused school and achieve Georgia STEM School certification. Through much research and discussion, our school leadership team decided that the best way for us to approach this systematic change in the school would be to work with the Southern Region Education Board (SREB) and their Making Middle Grades Work (MMGW) framework. To kick off the MMGW process, a group of proven teacher leaders were selected to serve on the SMMS steering committee and lead the focus groups that would initiate curricular-based school improvement. To find the needed areas of improvement a Technical Assistance Visit (TAV) was conducted by an outside committee of educators and administrators from a diverse group of schools and districts. A detailed report was returned that pointed out the critical focus areas for improvement. The SMMS Steering Committee used this report to create focus groups that would work on the assigned area. STEM certification was made a top priority, and the ultimate goal that the efforts of each focus group would aid in achieving. The 2014 -2015 school year would be the first year of our journey. During this first year the focus was training teachers in the Literacy Design Collaborative (LDC) and the Math Design Collaborative (MDC) to increase the rigor in math classes and ensure that literacy was a focus across all curriculum areas. The STEM focus group used the first year as a research year and consider our certification options. The first major decision we had to make was whether we wanted to have a STEM program within the school (a small group of selected students) or include all students and teachers across the school in STEM education. Collectively we quickly decided that the greatest benefit for our students and our school would be to approach STEM as a school-wide initiative. This decision would the greatest impact on student growth and foster relationships with school stakeholders. We took the opportunity during this first year to visit some nearby schools that were currently offering STEM programs so that we could begin to develop our game plan and determine best practices in this initiative. After visiting a few schools, the STEM focus group developed a plan to begin implementing STEM education across the school by setting aside one hour per week for a dedicated STEM time that would focus on the application and extension of standards already being taught . This program was cleverly named B.L.A.ST (Bobcats Learning About STEM). It was decided that during the second half of this year our sixth grade group would pilot this new initiative so that adjustments could be made before school-wide implementation.
As the 2015-2016 school year began, more STEM activities began to be put into action. While LDC and MDC training continued, the STEM focus group began training on Problem-Based Learning (PBL). Also during this school year, B.L.A.ST became a school-wide initiative that allowed for the basic introduction of PBL principles to teachers and students while focusing on 21st century skills and the application of the engineering design process. The secondary goal of this school year was the planning and development of our community involvement initiative. As we began to develop PBL projects, we immediately saw the need to involve community partners in the process as support and professional resources. The STEM focus group used this year to begin the creation of a Professional Advisory Committee (PAC). We developed a handbook that outlined the roles, responsibilities, and terms of participation, along with sample meeting agendas and schedules. Late in the 2015-2016 school year we began the development of a database that would would use to invite our PAC membership.
In the summer of 2016, a group of ten teachers and 2 administrators attended Southern Regional Education Board’s summer conference for Making Middle Grades Work in Louisville, Kentucky. Several SMMS teachers collaborated and presented four different breakout sessions on utilizing various strategies from MDC, LDC, STEM implementation and teacher collaboration protocols in the middle school.
Prior to returning to school in August, Mr. Jason Smith began developing a STEM website for SMMS to showcase SMMS beliefs, attributes and exemplary student work. Additionally, the SMMS STEM focus group held a reception for the first PAC meeting to share the initiative as formatted in an action plan that aligned with system and school goals. At the conclusion of the meeting, several PAC members were ready and willing to share their expertise or offer funding opportunities. The Camden County High School CTAE Director was able to fund all the supplies for robotics, engineering and math clubs. Lockheed-Martin and White Oak Plantation signed on as lead PAC members.
Once school was underway, preliminary STEM certification visits were scheduled and two were conducted (September & February). At the end of those visits, commendations and recommendations were made to foster SMMS’ goal of achieving and maintaining school-wide certification. The commendations and recommendations were shared with the leadership team, the steering committee and the STEM focus team. New tasks were put in place and shared with SREB consultants. Further, The SMMS leadership team worked with the special education department to incorporate more STEM activities. As a result, the two GAA classes worked with Lowe’s, United First Federal Credit Union and Eliano’s Coffee Shop to form a business within the school and extend these students’ real-world experiences.
Throughout the school year, PBL units have been refined and new ones designed that range from brief mini-lessons to daily lessons that extend student mastery to long-term research studies . Training was held for four days with four additional days of follow-up classroom observations. In April, SMMS hosted its first STEM Parent Night where the students are leading the charge to share the initiative and their work. Representatives from the Georgia Department of Education will be evaluating the SMMS program in May.
In May of 2017, representatives from the State Department of Education visited SMMS to evaluate our STEM initiative. It was determined that SMMS be award STEM program certification. The certification period runs from 2018-2023 at which point the school will be re-evaluated. During this certification period SMMS will continue to strengthen the program and seek to meet the goal of whole school certification.