Adairsville Middle has moved one step closer to being a state-certified science, technology, engineering and mathematics school.
Last month, AMS became the first school in Georgia to facilitate a completely virtual STEM walk for the Georgia Department of Education, moving ever closer to the final state certification walk with the department on Nov. 20.
If it receives the certification, Adairsville would be the first Bartow County school to be STEM-certified by the state.
"AMS is always up for a challenge and always willing to try it out," Assistant Principal Sarah Callaway said. "We were excited to brainstorm and come up with a way to help visitors see how STEM is working at AMS, even if they cannot be in the building."
Callaway was happy with how everything went during the 3½-hour event, which featured student ambassadors from each grade level leading DOE STEM Program Specialists Meghan McFerrin and Felicia Cullers as well as three educators from Oconee County who wanted to observe for their upcoming STEM walk on a virtual tour of the classrooms via Microsoft Teams.
"It was a great day to be a Tiger," she said. "We received excellent feedback, and we are ready to take suggestions and move towards certification in November."
The virtual visitors joined the classrooms on Microsoft Teams at designated times and visited with the STEM hosts, who were chosen by their teachers "to articulate their projects and communicate with virtual visitors," Callaway said.
"The STEM ambassadors answered questions, showed projects and moved the camera around the room so that visitors could see the exciting conversations and collaboration among students," she said.
During the first hour, seventh-graders spent 15 minutes showing the visitors what they were learning about infectious diseases in each of the four content areas — math, science, English language arts and social studies.
In the second hour, sixth-graders addressed Australia and rocks/minerals during 15-minute time slots for each area.
After a 20-minute break, eighth-grade ambassadors explained the elements of Georgia colonization for 40 minutes, divided into 10-minute time slots for each area.
The virtual tour ended with a 30-minute debriefing.
Claire Brown, an eighth-grader, said her job during the walk was to "explain what we were doing in math" regarding Georgia's colonization.
"We made our own currency for the colony we created in social studies," she said.
The 14-year-old said she liked being part of the event, which she called "fun."
"I was honored to be chosen to represent our school," she said. "I really appreciated the opportunity."
Seventh-grader Brookelin Hall said she was responsible for "answering any questions the visitors had."
"For example, they asked me why the Ozobots were moving and what they were moving towards and what the robots had to avoid for our social studies project," she said. "I helped them learn about what we were doing in class."
Brookelin, 12, said she liked participating in the tour and "liked getting to answer questions."
"I like doing STEM because it is a fun, hands-on activity," she said. "It is better than just doing schoolwork."
Callaway said the school plans to "use the same virtual method for our state certification STEM walk in November."
"Teachers and students have been working incredibly hard on their projects and are learning the valuable components of STEM, the four C’s: critical-thinking, communication, collaboration and creativity," she said. "All of our project-based learning units focus on the four C’s as well as the engineering design process."
The AP credited Principal Tony Stanfill with getting the ball rolling on the state-certification process.
"Mr. Stanfill has always been a strong proponent of project-based learning and engaging students each and every day they walk into the classroom," she said. "STEM is a perfect way for AMS to provide students with opportunities to be successful into high school and beyond. The four C’s are a way to help prepare students for life beyond middle school and high school."
The school began the certification process by integrating STEM into the sixth-grade curriculum during the 2018-19 school year, Callaway said.
"At the end of the year, AMS received certification through the Bartow County School System," she said. "AMS seventh-graders began STEM curriculum integration during the 2019-2020 school year. For the 2020-2021, all AMS students will receive instruction, which includes STEM curriculum integration. Our current eighth-graders will be the first class of AMS students who have had STEM their entire middle school careers."
Adairsville has continued STEM in each nine-week grading period "with interdisciplinary units to showcase on specific days for community members, GaDOE state representatives and stakeholders," Callaway said.
"We have had numerous in-field experts and GaDOE STEM staff members provide us with feedback on our next steps toward state certification," she said. "We are currently working on our documentation portion, which will be turned in to the GaDOE before our November walk to demonstrate the last three years of STEM at AMS."
Being certified by the state would help students immensely in the future, Callaway said, noting school officials will find out if they received the certification after the final walk next month.
"By integrating STEM into our curriculum, all students are able to discover how their academic subjects work together and are able to apply new knowledge to real-world applications," she said. "We believe STEM is the vehicle to prepare students for the future."