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Two campuses at Little Elm ISD are taking the next steps in developing 21st-century STEM education for all students. Hackberry Elementary and Prestwick STEM Academy leaders and teachers are working to become certified STEM campuses through the National Institute for STEM Education, or NISE. STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics and it offers hands-on and relevant learning experiences for students.
Christine Gibson, principal, has been at Prestwick since its opening for the 2014-2015 school year. Recently, it has been the catalyst for STEM curriculum implementation at all Little Elm ISD elementary campuses. A NISE certification will allow Gibson to continue to lead the way and explore even more opportunities for students, “With the guidance of a NISE STEM coach, we will take a deep dive into the foundations of STEM education, best practices, and work towards the ideals of making this learning powerful for each student who walks through our doors,” Gibson said.
Stephen Richardson, Hackberry Elementary principal, has created a culture at his campus where students can be innovative learners. The NISE STEM certification process will allow his staff to be thoroughly trained and give them opportunities to look more in-depth as they evaluate STEM education. Most importantly, Richardson chose to seek certification for the benefit of his students. “We know by having highly trained and qualified teachers holding a STEM certification is another benefit we can provide that will raise student achievement,” said Richardson.
The certification process requires teachers to complete 38 indicators divided into three domains. Teachers will focus on creating an environment for learning, building scientific learning, and engaging students in scientific and engineering practices. It takes about 60 hours of work for a teacher to complete the necessary requirements. Jennifer Bernabo, District science coordinator, is also seeking certification alongside Prestwick and Hackberry teachers. “Prestwick and Hackberry leaders and teachers are taking the initiative to help our District become THE Destination District by creating unique STEM certified schools,” said Bernabo. She said each campus has identified key educators to make up their STEM leadership team. “The two groups of teacher leaders will work together to complete experiences that will require teachers to use scientific and engineering processes to improve their practices.”
Dr. Cyndy Mika, assistant superintendent for Curriculum and Learning, said these campus certifications will eventually benefit all of our campuses as the District continues to implement STEM education across the District. “This certification is important to the District as it shows a commitment from two of our campuses above and beyond the District expectation for STEM implementation at the elementary level. It is our hope that in future years, all of our elementary campuses will complete the necessary requirements to become a NISE STEM Certified campus,” said Mika.
The certification process will take approximately nine months to complete. Prestwick and Hackberry will begin the NISE national certification in the spring of 2020. Currently, there are seven certified NISE STEM schools in the DFW area. Three others are currently working on their certification.