State and local interest in the many academic and social advantages of student participation in a comprehensive STEAM or STEM-powered education or arts-infused curriculum has grown tremendously in recent years. The complete transformations that have taken place at New Ellenton Middle STEAM Magnet School, Jackson Middle STEM Magnet School and East Aiken School of the Arts in that time clearly illustrate just how far things have come.
“Our transition to a STEAM-driven magnet school with innovative programming such as steel drums, Girls in Engineering and coding has provided our students with so many new opportunities to express themselves as individuals and learn core educational concepts in fun and exciting ways,” New Ellenton Middle STEAM Magnet School Principal Shunte Dugar said. “We want to empower their creativity and transform their perceptions of what success looks like and who they should aspire to be as future-ready students.”
Similarly, principal Perry Smith of Jackson Middle STEM Magnet School, who himself once walked the school’s hallways as a student, can fully appreciate the numerous opportunities a modern STEM-education has to offer.
“I could only have dreamed of some of the opportunities our students now have access to through our focus on STEM, from working in our STEM Lab to developing an award-winning web application that helps others to recycle.”
Both New Ellenton Middle STEAM Magnet School and Jackson Middle STEM Magnet School have been nationally certified through industry educational leader AdvancED. Their feeder high school is Silver Bluff High School, the Aiken County Public School District’s advanced studies Academy of Technology, Engineering & Art.
“Education offered through a STEM, STEAM or arts focus connects classroom instruction with real-world skills,” said Phyllis Gamble, executive director of Middle Schools for Aiken County Public Schools. “During instruction, students have numerous opportunities to learn and apply world-class skills, such as creativity and innovation, critical thinking and problem solving, collaboration and teamwork. The exposure to a STEAM, STEM and arts education also allows students to explore pathways to emerging career fields.”
For Aiken County Principal of the Year Lisa Fallaw, total infusion of and immersion in the arts at East Aiken School of the Arts has opened many pathways to success that students might not have been able to take advantage of otherwise.
“An arts infused education builds confidence and develops soft skills, such as cooperation and communication, which are necessary for our students to compete in a global society,” Fallaw said. “At East Aiken School of the Arts, we are educating the whole child, and are dedicated to our mission of academic excellence through the arts.”
New Ellenton Middle STEAM Magnet School saw its report card rating soar from a 2014 grade of Average to this year’s Excellent rating, despite an increase in expectations from federal guidelines.
“Our STEAM program at New Ellenton Middle STEAM Magnet school continues to challenge, build and sharpen 21st-century skills within our students,” said Dugar. “Skills outlined in the Profile of the S.C. Graduate are part of our daily instruction and school-wide STEAM projects and technology is the cornerstone of our STEAM program. As an AdvancED STEM accredited institution, we are ranked in the top 15 percent of middle schools in South Carolina and we are the highest-ranked middle school in Aiken County.”
In 2019-20, students at Jackson Middle STEM Magnet School will continue to benefit from strategic community and business partnerships and future-ready course offerings.
“We are excited about what 2019-20 has in store for students who will attend Jackson STEM Middle,” Smith said. “Our implementation of STEM with an engineering focus will provide our feeder school at Silver Bluff High with 21st-century learners who are inculcated with critical-thinking skills. Our students will continue to be presented with a new awareness of different engineering fields, many of which are represented in our local community. Students can look forward to benefiting from our partnerships with Savannah River Nuclear Solutions and the Ruth Patrick Science Education Center. Engineers from SRNS visit our classrooms and give students real-world applications of grade-level content and a deeper understanding of the engineering design process.”
For information on submitting a transfer application to an Aiken County Public Schools’ STEM, STEAM or Arts in Basic Curriculum Program, visit acpsd.net. On the navigation bar hover over “I AM …” and then select “A Parent/Guardian”. Scroll down and select “School Choice” on the left hand side of the page. District schools can also provide parents with this information.