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Full STEAM Ahead in South Carolina

NEA's Back to School Tour 2015 Day 4

NEA President Lily Eskelsen García completed the first week of the Back-to-School Opportunity Tour in Columbia, South Carolina, visiting two fantastic schools, Long Leaf Middle School and Keenan High School.

At Long Leaf Middle School, President García was greeted by the young men of the leadership club and welcomed by the school’s student quartet and chorus. The welcome was followed by a student from the theater department who described the school’s STEAM (Science, Technology Engineering, Art, and Math) program. “Engineering and art is where it’s at,” said the student. “All of our students develop their creative voice and critical thinking skills. Long Leaf STEAM team is all about the students. At our school, it’s game on.”

As part of the STEAM curriculum, students are choreographing a dance band based on the style of the Renaissance paired with modern hits. They are creating art based on ancient civilizations, and in math class, they’re designing stained glass windows while learning about angles and degrees. Science classes are paired with engineering. And the school offers a unique ZooBot program (Zoology and Botany) featuring a class zoo including cockatiels, a sugar glider, turtles, a ferret, guinea pigs, fish, and more.

“The Zoobot program [is my favorite] because I want to be a marine biologist after college,” one student explained. The program offers lots of field trips to different natural locations, including a recent trip to study sea turtles.

We know it’s important for our middle school students to be in an environment that caters to them,” Long Leaf Middle School Principal Angela Thom explained. “We listen to what the world needs and help teach them those skills so they are better prepared for high school and careers.”

President García told the students, “I love the focus of this school. I’m going to take something in my head and my heart, and that is that our educators know what our students need and when we listen to them, the opportunities are endless,” said García. “We’re saying, ‘you really can be anything you want’ and they’re not just words, we mean it.”

President García then addressed the educators, “What is this school’s secret sauce?”

Beyond collaboration, including community collaboration, said educators, they constantly get the students’ input…a mistake that other people often make. “Why would we make decisions without including the students?” The students responded that a variety of classes and the staff make them feel welcome, responsible, and encourage them to live their dreams.

President García’s last stop: Keenan High School, where she toured a science class and visited with future educators. The school has been chosen one of 22 different schools to submit experiments to go up to the international Space Station. Students’ research showed how much carbon dioxide would be lost because nearby trees were being cut down nearby for a new stadium that is being built.

Addressing the future educators, President García thanked all of them for wanting to be teachers, but had a special word for the four young men in the room. “You young men are so rare. Gentlemen, we are thankful for you. It takes men and women from every community to give our kids the education they deserve.”

When asked why they wanted to teach, the answers were varied: one student loved math; another had a passion for music; and many just wanted to help people.

“I think we forget our little ones nowadays,” said one young woman. “I want to be able to help people reach their dreams.”

See more NEA Back to School Tour 2015 Highlights

NEA 2015 Back to School Tour: South Carolina

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