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Fri, Dec. 06

Science, engineering, art 'STEAM'-ing into 2 Humboldt schools

Second-graders Chris Summers, left, and George Salekas create bubbles and learn about surface tension and reflection during their STEAM classes at Mountain View Elementary School this past week.<br>
Trib Photo/Sue Tone

Second-graders Chris Summers, left, and George Salekas create bubbles and learn about surface tension and reflection during their STEAM classes at Mountain View Elementary School this past week.<br> Trib Photo/Sue Tone

Two schools in the Humboldt Unified School District have defined their curriculum focus to include science, technology, engineering, arts and math - or STEAM.

The HUSD Governing Board approved Glassford Hill Middle School and Mountain Valley Elementary School's STEAM signature programs at its Feb. 11 meeting. MVES Principal JoAnne Bindell said her school put into place something similar five years ago with its Classical Enrichment program.

"Then three years ago, it morphed into STEM after Terri suggested it during a presentation," Bindell said, referring to GHMS Principal Theresa Matteson when Matteson spoke to district teachers as a consultant prior to becoming Glassford Hill's principal.

For an hour every Wednesday, Mountain View students take part in a 10-week session in one of their top three choices of STEAM classes. Under science and technology, students could be designing windmills, water filters, alarm circuits, lighting systems, parachutes, bridges or magnetic levitation systems; learning about the physics of bubbles; studying native plants and animals; or cleaning an oil spill.

Students in grades 3-6 can learn to use cameras and computers to design a student newspaper, business cards and PowerPoint presentations. They can also build and program working robots in the popular robotics class.

Art classes include the elements of art, pastels, print making, painting, multi-cultural projects, mask-making, reader's theater, international games, chime choir, drums, and school choir.

Bindell and Matteson both said parents overwhelmingly reported on district surveys they wanted more science and more arts opportunities for their children. After every 10-week session, the students evaluate their classes and make suggestions for future STEAM classes.

At Glassford Hill, students participate in six-week STEAM classes every day, in addition to the daily curriculum, Matteson said.

"All students are actively engaged in hands-on, real-world topics," she said.

Each year students also choose one topic that the entire school actively investigates for a six-week period. Students chose Arizona Water as this year's topic.

This past month, the school received $4,825 through the Prescott College/Environmental Protection Agency Arizona Waters grant to purchase materials to build a rainwater catchment system and riparian model for the school's new outdoor classroom habitat.

Glassford Hill is the first middle school in Yavapai County to develop an outdoor habitat on its campus, Matteson said. The school has forged partnerships with the Prescott Highlands Natural History Center, Science Foundation Arizona, and other agencies and organizations.

HUSD Finance Director Cynthia Windham said the cost to create each school's signature program comes out of capital reserve money.

"We have to proceed cautiously," Windham said this past week. "We will focus on one-time startup costs and training."

For Mountain View, those costs include Engineering is Elementary units, teacher guides, materials and three digital USB microscopes; additional robotics kits and materials; art and media supplies; and teacher training. Estimated start-up cost is about $9,400. Future requests include laptop carts and wireless classroom slates, and one full-time STEAM teacher to manage the habitat environment and curriculum, train teachers in STEAM education, and plan, prepare and manage STEAM classes and materials.

Glassford Hill would expand its Paxton-Patterson program with five additional modules at $5,000 each, and pay a Gizmo site license fee next year for which a Gear Up grant currently pays. A grant through Northern Arizona University and">Arizona Public Service Foundation provides training for two STEM lead teachers who are providing professional development for the entire staff on STEAM integration. The partnership with the Arizona Science Center includes training at no cost, but requires substitute coverage for teachers to attend the training.

Matteson said she, too, would like to hire a STEAM teacher, and one-to-one mobile devices for students.

Windham said each school provides three propositions for their signature programs, and the district has about $30,000-$40,000 available to get started; that does not include funds for new staff next year.

"Training and materials come first," confirmed HUSD Supt. Paul Stanton.

Creating signature programs for district schools allows parents and students to have greater choice with their education. Bradshaw Mountain High School has developed its AP Academy to attract and retain students who want a more rigorous academic curriculum.

"The district felt like it would be a good investment to get these programs started to retain students and to attract students," Windham said.

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