Last updated: July 25. 2013 12:14AM - 717 Views
By - dbroyles@civitasmedia.com

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Mount Airy City Schools are looking to incorporate technology in a way that isn’t being widely used in North Carolina in the upcoming school year with hands-on Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) units at every grade level.

A crucial component making this push unique is using arts to support STEM. This addition of an A to the lineup is at no additional cost.

“What we are really doing is re-purposing current dollars,” said School Superintendent Dr. Gregory Little. “I want to stress to the Mount Airy community that it will get our best and we will keep moving forward in spite of Raleigh. We take pride in being good stewards of taxpayer dollars and will stretch every dime to benefit our students.”

Executive Director of Curriculum and Instruction Dr. Kim Morrison said thinking among educators has been influenced by author Daniel Pink whose works include “A Whole New Mind: Why Right Brainers will Rule The Future” and “Free Agent Nation: The Future of Working for Yourself.”

“It seems almost every famous scientist and mathematician was both an artist and a scientist. Da Vinci was both and (Albert) Einstein was a musician,” said Morrison. “They (scientists and students) must think about creative solutions and arts delivers the ability to be innovative better.”

Little said he found it interesting how the arts and STEM are “interwoven.” He said he was as excited about STEAM being brought to students than anything else he has done in his career. He predicted “mid-course corrections” and that this initiative would look different in each school.

“What it comes down to is kindergarten students in our school district will be doing engineering projects,” said Little. Morrison pointed out that another component of this program would be teachers acting collaboratively in classrooms which would push educators to further improve their use of technology, teamwork and communication.

This integration of STEAM into students’ days throughout the week also meshes with the district’s recently completed community-based strategic plan and school improvement plans. The plan, launched in February, set goals including developing students “who will think critically, innovatively solve problems, and be responsible citizens and confident leaders with a passion for learning.”

“The community gave us the road map for improvement,” said Little. “What we are doing are solutions from that strategic plan. We believe in innovation but not innovation for its own sake. We are an incredible school district and this effort is the next step where we ensure going from planning to action.”

Little said teaching leadership will also be a “critical function” of the K-12 program and said education will be personalized for students.

“A school district has to serve all children,” said Little. “Our highly successful children have to be challenged and those struggling need to be supported and nurtured. It’s not enough to teach to the middle.”

Morrison said this plan will be accomplished in specific steps and said children want to learn through discovery.

“Teachers have to let kids discover then reflect on what was learned,” said Morrison. “The new way of thinking is on how kids learn through play. We have to set up an environment where students learn to grapple with problems and be resilient. Arts seemed to do this well.”

Little said the district has also been helped by input from local industries on what they are or are not finding in local graduates.

“One thing is certain. the future will be more complex and problems will not be simpler,” Little said. “The jobs that will drive the economy 20 years from now have not been invented yet. We need students to face that uncertain future. This is a high leveraging start to move Mount Airy City Schools to the next level. We want to be a national leader. This will be the way we get there.”

Reach David Broyles at dbroyles@civitasmedia.com or 336-719-1952.

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