Elkin City Schools held an administrative retreat recently to review its progress on a “Journey of Significance” program implemented last year. The program emphasizes a project-based style of learning with a STEAM-focused educational curriculum and included a theme to persist to initiate and implement the model in all grade levels.
In the model, STEAM means “science and technology interpreted through engineering and the arts, all based in mathematical elements.”
ECS School Superintendent Dr. Randy Bledsoe said the “Journey of Significance” that initially began in fourth through eighth grades created enthusiasm in staff at all grade levels and is in the process of being adopted by the elementary and high school in addition to engaged learning styles overall.
“Significance will be our major focus now that we have implemented the first phase of STEAM-implemented education for every child,” said the superintendent.
Bledsoe said this year’s retreat was particularly important in that helped measure changes, accomplishments and needs after the project-based teaching model was adopted last year.
One of the most measurable means found among eighth-graders who got an early start with the teaching style was more of them were discovered “engaged” in learning, said Bledsoe.
Bledsoe said on being a “school of significance,” one of the things that stands out in his mind is how teachers in grades fourth through eighth found a spark was re-ignited in their teaching.
The superintendent said the energy was felt by the students, who as a result, became more involved in education. Bledsoe said that spark and enthusiasm quickly spread to teachers in all grades.
Bledsoe said the style is going beyond just teaching a history lesson. In the style, educators are asking students to be interactive in finding answers to the subject matter, while engaging them in the learning process.
This year’s retreat was led by Curriculum Instruction Specialist Cynthia Altemueller, who modeled the style for administration staff, while speaking about educational strategies for implementation.
Altemueller showed through PowerPoint presentations, question-and-answer sessions and group projects how all levels of teachers and students work together in the approach.
Now, said Bledsoe, the next step involves continued development for teachers and kids, continuing to introduce the new setting, and continuing to review any areas needed for improvement.
He emphasized that project-based learning involves critical-thinking and analyzing skills, while working in groups and as individuals in a interactive approach with the teacher.
In the process, students are learning an individual responsibility for their own education, said Bledsoe.
Bledsoe said ultimately, the administrative retreat brought an awareness of how important the journey is and the reason they began with an ultimate goal to get “our kids to their future whether it is college or career.”
Emphasis was placed by Bledsoe on the fact that school staff are educational leaders and through education are trying to create a better society and a culture. The hope is that Elkin will be a place that students will want to come home to in their future, he said.
“The things that we are doing right now, when I look at them, they are what I refer to as noble because I want kids to see a future with a financial means that will make them happy,” he said.
Bledsoe emphasized that not every person learns the same time, in the same way or in the same manner and the model takes that into account for better student success. Meanwhile, he said he is focused on looking for career pathways for the students which are successful for them.
Bledsoe said, “I think we are going to create an interest in science.” He said STEAM also helps bring realization to the arts.
“STEAM-infused education is helping every student realize the importance of all the areas while still having that special talent,” said Bledsoe.
More information on STEAM may be found at www.steamedu.com. In addition, some of the interactive teaching tools emphasized and used at the retreat may be found at www.educationworld.com.
Tanya Chilton may be reached at 336-835-1513 or on Twitter @TanyaTDC.