Oak Grove Elementary Executive Summary
Oak Grove's STEM journey, like many others, has been unique. It began, officially, four years ago with the hiring of STEM Coordinator Kendall Xides. Kendall is master gardener, first and foremost, with vast knowledge of native and invasive plants, and a true commitment to sustainable, earth-friendly horticulture and environmental education. She realized the power that a learning garden can have – endless opportunities for inquiry, experimentation, and citizen science. In her first two years she transformed a once-drab space into a vibrant and productive outdoor classroom. It's a butterfly garden, a bird sanctuary, a meditation garden, a compost factory, and an outdoor laboratory.
But, the garden is only a piece of what Kendall has accomplished. She has also slowly transformed the way students and teachers think. Early on she introduced us to the Engineering Design Process. Teachers dutifully posted posters and challenged students to use the EDP to solve engineering problems. Design a bridge. Build a boat. We started with Science Nights, and then STEM days, and then school-wide EDP challenges. We were well on our way. We were in contact with the Georgia Department of Education and were positioning ourselves for certification during the 2017-2018 school year.
This is not to say that there weren't bumps along the way. While transforming traditional high achievers to true STEM thinkers and engineers, there was also the nagging distraction of maintaining Oak Grove's high test scores. Data analysis continued to show that many Oak Grove students are what are called "high achiever/low growth." They score well on standardized tests but find it difficult to improve upon those high scores as they progress through the grade levels. When confronted with this reality by district and school administration, Oak Grove teachers did what committed teachers do; they rolled up their sleeves and attacked the standards.
While results have been mixed, a down side emerged. The focus on standards led to classrooms, despite having excellent teachers and bright students, that became risk-averse spaces. Many teachers shied away from bold and innovative projects in an effort to maintain high scores. And the high achiever/low growth problem continued.
Our student population is also naturally averse in taking intellectual risks. These are smart kids with successful and educated parents. They default to seeking the right answer, not the best or most innovative answer. They perform at a high level, and will no doubt succeed after they move on. But the question remains: Are we doing enough to prepare them for what they will face when they enter college and the workplace. Are they, in this setting, truly twenty-first century learners?
So this is where we found ourselves when we entered this current school year. A strong school, leaning toward traditional side of the spectrum, with a STEM program brimming with potential but slowed by external forces.
In a stroke of scheduling genius at the end of the 2016-2017, our Assistant Principal, Cassandra Moore, was able to secure an extra teaching point, and our Principal, Lynda Mauborgne, decided to refocus and redouble our efforts toward achieving STEM certification. A second, full time and certified teacher was added to the STEM team to meet that end. This position focused on STEM professional development, the promotion of technology in the classroom, and the certification effort.
At the beginning of this school year we also learned of a new development. In addition to the Georgia DoE certification process, often at times vague and shifting, there was another option. This is, of course, certification through AdvancED. For a variety of reasons we decided that AdvancED certification was the way for us; it had clear expectations and strong support through our district.
In making this decision, however, we were faced with a new challenge and unexpected. We needed to completely reimagine what STEM was.
Until this year, STEM was an event; it was something we did in isolation, usually an engineering challenge. STEM was popsicle sticks and Legos, fun Fridays and the occasional stimulating evening event.
We soon learned that in the AdvancED way of thinking, STEM is different; it’s systemic. STEM is way more than science, technology, engineering and math. It is all subjects seamlessly integrated in such a way that students drive the learning. The 4 Cs (critical thinking, creativity, collaboration and communication) are the essential skills that students must learn and traditional standards-based content shifts more to the background. Our classrooms needed look different than they did; teachers and students needed to behave differently. We were confronted with the need for no less than a paradigm shift.
So this is where we are as a school community. We have embraced a new way of thinking about teaching and learning. We have tried hard to transfer control of learning to our students. We are - slowly but steadily - making problem-based learning our guiding philosophy.
We have put robust professional learning in place. We added EdCamp-style meetings once a month to tap the expertise within our faculty for professional development. We create STEM Roundtables – monthly curated discussions among of teachers of different grade levels and disciplines – to create a culture of STEM at Oak Grove. And, we developed the Oak Grove STEM Summer Institute – four full days of paid professional learning over this summer and the summers to come devoted fully to project-based learning and the sustainability of our STEM program.
We have seen a demonstrable transformation in the way our students approach their learning, which we hope is evident in our Online Presentation of Evidence. They have become more comfortable taking intellectual risks. They have grown to look for multiple solutions to complex problems. They have learned to collaborate with their peers and with experts in STEM fields and beyond. Most importantly, they are beginning to realize that they are connected to the world outside of Oak Grove, and they can make a meaningful impact on that world.
Oak Grove STEM Indicators Narrative
ST1.1 The STEM school/program supports non-traditional student participation through outreach to groups often underrepresented in STEM program areas.
Our MID students will continue to be a focus for us next year,. We will maintain our relationship with Doug Hamby of Fernbank Science Center to continue to keep these students engaged with the the world around them. We will continue monitoring our hummingbird population, and maintain the group’s commitment to raising money for Special Olympics.
We have and will continue to work with our Student Support Specialist to to identify our “bubble kids” -- those students whose scores on the Measures of Academic Progress or MAP test fall 5 points above or below the 40th percentile. We have found this vulnerable group responds well to STEM instruction in general, with its emphasis in problem solving and critical thinking; they also thrive also in our small groups of “textperts” and in afterschool engagement in garden, STEM PM, or yearbook clubs. Preliminary MAP data from the fall of 2017 to winter of 2018 suggest an increase in 4.5 points in all tested subject areas within this group.
Moving forward, we will be using MAP and Milestone data to also track the progress of another underrepresented but notable section of our population: a group we inartfully call “high achiever/low growth”. For many years we have noted a group (nearly 10%) of high-performing students who do well on standardized tests, but who show little growth year to year. Remediation, test-taking skills, and test prep have done little to remedy the problem. In the past we thought there simply was a ceiling, but as we have become more familiar with STEM and problem-based learning, we have a hunch that these students aren’t being engaged at a high level. STEM and PBL, we believe, are what this group needs to show improvement. We are beginning to track this data now.
ST1.2 Students work independently and collaboratively in an inquiry-based learning environment that encourages finding creative solutions to authentic and complex problems.
A visit to any of our classrooms will show the ease with which our students collaborate and communicate. Many of our teachers have guided students to real-world problem solving: drainage problems at the school, hunger in our outlying communities, helping to fund Special Olympics, addressing the loss of national parkland, and bringing relief to survivors of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico.
We are committed to our ”paradigm shift” -- to continue to move toward inquiry- and project-based learning as the guiding philosophy at Oak Grove. Moving forward, through robust, STEM-focused professional development, collaboration among teachers, students, and community members, and with the sustained assistance of our dedicated STEM team, we will continue to identify real-world and local problems for our students to attack.
ST1.3 Students are empowered to personalize and self-direct their STEM learning experiences supported by STEM educators who facilitate their learning.
Our shift toward project-based learning and STEM has provided many powerful experiences for our teachers at Oak Grove, but none, perhaps, more fundamental than what results from relinquishing control of the learning. As we have allowed children to self-direct, to collaborate, to implement, to fail, and try again, we have seen levels of excitement and engagement that we used to only see on special event days. Now we are accustomed to the productive buzz of collaboration and focused activity and we see that our kids respond more enthusiastically to intellectual challenges, are able to generate more (and more creative) solutions to problems, and are generally happier and more excited about their learning.
ST1.4 Students use technology resources to conduct research, demonstrate creative and critical thinking, and communicate and work collaboratively.
One of the accomplishments we are most proud of is the development of our STEM Student Profile for grades K-2 and 3-5. In fits and starts for years we have tried to pin down just what we expect our students to know and be able to do, but the effort was always scuttled by changing technology and lack of time. Since we have had two staff members focusing exclusively on our STEM program, we have been able to devise profiles that are at the same time both specific and adaptable to changing technology.
Another milestone reached this year was a move to 1:2 computing environment; more than ever computers and related technologies are simply tools used to accomplish self-determined tasks, rather than tasks themselves.
ST1.5 Students demonstrate their learning through performance-based assessments and express their conclusions through elaborated explanations of their thinking.
A heightened focus on the 4 Cs has transformed our classrooms into increasing collaborative, creative, and student-centered spaces. Students have multiple opportunities, across grade levels and disciplines.
Moving forward, we intend to continue to nurture our ties with community-based stakeholders to demonstrate highlight with the greater community.
Public Service Announcements aired on WOGE Live; Upper/lower-grade mentorships; Science Fair
ST1.6 The interdisciplinary problem-based curriculum includes a focus on real world applications.
Although we can trace our STEM journey back a number of years, In many ways our certification journey began at the start of this school year, with the introduction to project-based learning as a curricular model. Teachers examined Georgia Standards of Excellence across the disciplines, often literally cutting them apart and reordering them, looking for interdisciplinary connections. From these connections we watched for the emergence of real-world problems. From those first days emerged our first PBL units: “How can we help to rebuild after a disaster?” was a direct response to the devastation caused by Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico. “The grass we currently have at the back of the school building is not native; how can we solve this to support native flora and fauna in our school environment?” evolved from discussions about the US government selling off national parkland. Not perfect PBL questions, but they certainly grew from real problems.
From these questions, integrated units emerged with an emphasis on STEM disciplines. A civil engineer, for example, challenged fourth graders to build houses that can withstand intense wind after detailing inadequacies in construction practices before
Accompanying these units was a study of the Engineering Design Process and the 4Cs so that we could develop a shared language and mindset.
ST1.7 STEM educators collaborate as an interdisciplinary team to plan, implement, and improve integrated STEM learning experiences.
We have built planning directly into our professional development (see ST1.9 below) because It's clear that planning impactful, interdisciplinary, PBL units requires sustained and dedicated time with seat at the table for all involved: classroom teachers, administration, special ed co-teachers and resource teachers, special area teachers and paraprofessionals. Our STEM leads learned this the hard way this year when we mistakenly focused on classroom teachers, leaving many feeling marginalized. Through a great deal of discussion we have come to the conclusion that the whole staff has something to contribute in a STEM school.
In addition to daily common-planning blocks, we have devoted 2 hours a week of faculty meeting time to collaborative team planning. Teachers have 2 full planning days throughout the year for STEM planning and the vast majority of the STEM Summer Institute will be devoted to team planning.
ST1.8 STEM learning outcomes demonstrate students’ STEM literacy necessary for the next level of STEM learning and for post-secondary and workforce readiness.
After developing the STEM Student Profile, we devised a Profile Checklist to attach to each Oak Grove student. There are two bands, k-2 and 3-5, covering competencies ranging from technology proficiencies to digital citizenship goals. As a student travels through each band, teachers can monitor progress and target skills as needed.
We are also targeting 21st Century skills using the 4 Cs. Teachers encourage and speak explicitly about the need to communicate ideas and work collaboratively to solve problems. We have made the use of higher order thinking questions a priority in class and collaborative group discussions.
Working closely with our Student Support Specialist, we're using MAP data to establish baselines with which to track progress over the next 2-5 years.
ST1.9 STEM teachers and leaders participate in a continuous program of STEM-specific professional learning.
We feel this is an area of strength for us, simply because we realized as a faculty, that for us to be successful as a STEM school, we would have to continually self-evaluate, conduct needs assessment, and pursue the support we need. We also have realized that a good deal of that support can come from within.
Our PD plan as it exists:
- Weekly, one-hour faculty meetings as follows:
- One collaborative team planning day per semester (2 total), with paid substitutes
- STEM Summer Institute
25 hours of STEM training and planning during one week in July paid for by the Oak Grove Foundation. Funding has been secured for the next 4 years (20 hours total next summer, 15 for the subsequent summers)
Looking ahead: Next year we'll evaluate the effectiveness of EdCamp. While wildly received at first as a true confirmation of our professionalism, some may be feeling that it has lost its impact.
ST1.10 Community, post-secondary, and business/industry partners and/or families actively support and are engaged with teachers and students in the STEM program.
Support is provided from many areas in our community. Most closely related to the school is our PTA and Foundation, both of which play in active role in the sustainability of our STEM program. The Oak Grove Foundation funds the part time position of our STEM coordinator and is providing the funds for stipends for the Oak Grove STEM Summer Institute. The foundation also contributes by funding teacher professional development, and provides us with a sizeable budget for Spheros, Cubelets, Drones, STEM related printed materials, and all expenses related to the Teaching Garden.
Our families provide a great deal as well. As seen on our Parent Database, many prents have donated their time to work with our students. Environmental Engineer Karen Durden works with our afterschool Garden Club. Cartoonist Tom Fiester has organized the Comic CLub to teach storyboarding and creative digital skills. Former parent and CDC Environmental Health Geographer has worked with students on GIS projects, and set up and helps maintain our digital weather station Many others have visited classrooms to share expertise and have acted as judges and sponsors for Science Fair, First Lego League competitions, Grovebots, Science Olympiad and more.
We also have a unique relationship with Fernbank Science Center because our STEM Coordinator also works there. Kamal Carter has provided training for staff, presents at Engineer Night (this year's topic: 3D Spacecraft), and Doug Hamby works with our MID classes on topics like Hummingbird Migration and Lichen.
Our fifth graders have worked with the Emory Herbarium staff, including parent and Emory Ethnobotanist Cassandra Quave to establish the Oak Grove Herbarium to preserve and study plants from our garden and surroundings.
After attending a STEM conference session on Nanotechnology presented by Georgia Tech in the fall of 2014, we had the idea for a nanotechnology day at Oak Grove, and chose October 10 for our 10-10 day. Working closely with Joyce Palmer, Nanotechnology Educator at Georgia Tech, and Mary Breen, NanoDays coordinator at Fernbank Science Center, we created a day of hands-on lessons for preK-5th grade that explores the powers of ten, large and small. In 2015 and 2017, Georgia Tech Institute for Electronics and Nanotechnology visited on 10-10 Day with a Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM). Mrs. Breen assisted in planning activities, provided supplies, and loaned non-consumable items from Fernbank's NanoDays (partnership with NISE - National Informal STEM Education) for Oak Grove to use. Some activities on 10-10 Day include: measuring your height in nanometers, using pocket microscopes to examine money, learning about magnification through binoculars, NNIN's "What is the smallest thing you know" lesson, and exploratory stations with a variety of microscopes, Nanooze Magazine, and a variety of other games and lesson from NISENET and NNIN. Since 2016, all K-3 teachers as well as 4 &5 science teachers have a USB microscope in their classroom. In 2017, our 10-10 Day was featured on the National Nanotechnology Initiative website Nano.gov.
Looking forward, we hope to both maintain our current partners and find new connections for our students. We're hoping to grow our Aquaponics program with the help of HatPonics.
ST1.11 Students are supported in their STEM learning through adult-world connections and extended day opportunities.
This year we developed the Lakeside/Oak Grove Yearbook partnership. This club was made up of Oak Grove extended day students and members of the Lakeside High School yearbook staff. High schoolers mentored 5th grade students, teaching them all aspects of yearbook production including photography skills, photo editing, layout design, and publishing. Fifth graders then worked with Oak Grove parents on a limited number of spreads in our yearbook. In the past all aspects of the Oak Grove yearbook production were parent-run.
Also piloting this year was the Afterschool Garden Club consisting of around 20 third graders enrolled in our extended day program. This year's focus was establishing and maintaining the garden's compost pile, and using it to explore data collection, maintenance, and a variety of scientific experimentation.
Our STEM PM group of approximately 45 third, fourth, and fifth graders met weekly after school for a variety of STEM challenges. The group was shelved due to a staffing issue, but we are looking to reinstate it next year with devoted extended day employee.
Our Science Olympiad team consisted of 30 third, fourth, and fifth graders, and coached by parents, has qualified for the state competition in May.
Our Grovebot Team took on the problem of "fatbergs" in our water system and took home the Grand Champion prize in their regional competition, and Best Robot Design in the super-regional competition,
The fledgling Comics Club, which uses traditional storyboarding and cartooning and looks to add digital techniques, is comprised of over 50 fourth graders.
Oak Grove is hosting a First Lego League Jr. summit and competition with Bouie Elementary in May, and all Oak Grove 3rd graders will compete.
Oak Grove sent six projects to the district Technology Fair for the first time and brought home a second place prize in video production.
Looking ahead: revive STEM PM with dedicated afterschool extended day staff member; continue and expand the work of the Garden Club to include other areas of the campus, and focusing on drainage and erosion issues; increase the number of meetings between high school and elementary yearbook team members and increase the number of spreads done exclusively by Oak Grove students. We also look to increase the role of adult mentorship, particularly in the STEM fields. We have already added "mentor a student or group of students in your field with real-world problems" as a response option for our Parent Database.
AdvancED Self Assessment
AdvancED Self Assessment
Core STEM and Faculty Self Assessments
After completing the self-assessment as a Core Stem Team, we invited the enire faculty to participate, first in September and then again in December via an online form. While we remain our harshest critics, the evolution of our self-awareness is evident. As our principal puts it, "We're moving the mountain."
Online Presentation of Evidence
Section 1: STEM Learners
The STEM school/program supports non-traditional student participation through outreach to groups often underrepresented in STEM program areas.
We have identified two groups as underrepresented in STEM learning: our Moderate Intellectual Disability (MID) population, and what we call our "Bubble Kids."
Our MID population, while integrated socially with the rest of the student body, has historically remained academically separate. We see STEM as an opportunity to both further the academic success of these learners, and to include them fully in our STEM vision. Currently we have two MID classes (grades 1-3 and grades 3-5), totaling 23 children. All students have Individualized Education Plans (IEPs). Of those, 13 children "push out" into regular education classes for part of the day. Our continued goal is to further integrate these students into the general population by providing opportunities for them to share their work and findings with regular education students in other classes.
Not only have we endeavored to include a MID students in all STEM activites, we are proud to say that we have firmly integrated our MID students with our regular ed population. The results both formal and informal have been magical.
On a recent visit by frequent collaborator Doug Hamby of Fernbank Science Center, students learned how to identify lichen, and logged data for ongoing analysis. See here:
Hummingbirds at Home
In the fall of 2017, Grades 3-5 children kept a running record of hummingbird sightings, since the class overlooks the hummingbird area in our STEM garden, and migrating hummingbird populations are in decline. In March, they will participate in Hummingbirds at Home, a citizen science program created by the Audubon Society to see if populations of Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are in decline. Our MID students are working to solve this real world problem with a cross-curricular approach including math, ELA and science. In this way our students are able to holistically identify real world solutions to the hummingbird decline.
Mainstreamed MID students joined regular ed classes and visited the Georgia Traveling Map which was temporatily installed in the Oak Grove library. Students used tablets and pre-made QR codes to access 360 degree "street view" images of important landmarks and notable geographic sites in Georgia.
In 2016, our MID students identified a localized, real-world problem at Oak Grove. Using math and art, our students rectified this problem; they measured and painted delineated parking spaces in our lot. On 10-10 Day, MID students, with our Art Department, scaled (x10) our school logo to created a stencil for the Oak Grove parking lot. They then stenciled the logo in each parking space.
In the fall of 2017, MID classes made artisanal scarves to raise money for the Special Olympics. They took on all aspects of the project: from manufacturing to marketing and selling. A "store" was open for several days for to parent and teacher customers.
Our "bubble kids" are those students whose scores fall 5 points above or below the 40th percentile on the Measures of Academic Progress or MAP test. Data show that these students can easily move in either direction, and within our STEM program, we believe that we can increase our student percentages. In addition to the school STEM curriculum, this group of kids is being assigned to those ongoing duties that need to be done by small groups: Meteorologists (Weather data collection), Data Squad (helping MID classes with data reporting, such as Hummingbirds at Home), Aquarium Rescue Unit (maintaining aquaponics/aquariums), Green Thumbs (assisting in the garden), Green Screen Crew, Texperts, OGE Live Morning Show Crew, Yearbook Club, Backstage Sound etc.
Preliminary MAP data from fall of 2017 to winter of 2018 suggest an increase in 4.5 points in all tested subject areas for these "bubble kids".
Students work independently and collaboratively in an inquiry-based learning environment that encourages finding creative solutions to authentic and complex problems.
Our teachers, including MID, special education, and Special areas teachers, meet regularly to plan and collaborate around interdisciplinary units built around real-world problems and questions. As a result of this intensive planning, the teachers are able to facilitate our students to think independently. We encourage our students to think independently, and to work collaboratively to come up with solutions to real world problems. As teachers become better facilitators, they are naturally and more readily providing opportunities for our children to find their own creative solutions to authentic and complex problems. We encourage students (as well as teachers) to use the language of the the 4 Cs - Creativity, Critical Thinking, Collaboration and Cooperation – and we provide our students ample time to self-reflect in these areas. (see evidence below) At Oak Grove during the past four years we have been implementing STEM, our children have become much more effective communicators and have become adept at sharing ideas, working independently, and ensuring all voices are heard as they work throughout the EDP process.
Health vs. Hunger
Our health teacher is working with all grade levels to design vertical gardening systems in an attempt to combat overcrowding and inadequate food supply across the world. Students design container systems and work out how to provide water for the plants. A winter freeze has presented further problems ready for young minds to solve.
In response to the 2014 Sundarban oil tanker collision and spill, third grade students conducted research and used the EDP to devise systems to clean up after spills. Connections were made with fuel from roads washing into local Echo Lake watershed.
Recently our Pre-K and kindergarten students embarked on a four week unit using Fairy Tales Educational Duplo to address problems with construction and earthquakes.
Topics included Toppling Towers, Wobbling Walls, and Giants - building skyscrapers using EDP.
3rd Grade Students study weather related hazards to crops, then design a system that protects fruit trees from animals, but also allows water to pass through, and prevents damage from weather events like hail.
Solving the parking problem at OGE with the help of a CDC cartographer. GIS system is not accurate enought, so we're using the EDP to come up with other solutions.
Students are empowered to personalize and self-direct their STEM learning experiences supported by STEM educators who facilitate their learning.
At Oak Grove we have been honing our STEM skillset for the past four years. We started with science nights which became STEM nights. We added quarterly STEM days, robotics and coding. At this point we are perfecting a fully integrated and collaborative, STEM-rich program. We attempt to bring in traveling programs, guest speakers, and citizen science whenever possible.
We are now, several years in, integrating STEM through integrated project-based learning every day in every lesson where there is a concrete connection.
With the pro bono help of a local graphic designer, we developed a poster for each classroom depicting the Engineering Design Process. Our goal was to standardize STEM language and thinking so that kids move from grade to grade within the same STEM framework.
The 4 Cs
Critical thinking, Creativity, Collaboration, and Communication.)It has been a priority at Oak Grove to speak explicitly to our kids about the expectations of STEM student at Oak Grove. We have adopted the language of the 4 Cs as well as the sentiment - that all students are expected to be creative problem solvers who work together to find solutions.
Our PreK teacher has taken an active role in the process of growing STEM students through project-based, including a current effort to protect the habitat of bees learning, the EDP, and simple coding.
Pre-K students use Beebots to experiment with simple coding.
First Lego League Jr.: Aqua Adventure
FLL is program for teams of two to six students who each year tackle a newchallenge. Students work together to design, est and build a model that will solve the problem posed by the challenge. Students then present their findings to a panel of judges. FLL embraces a set of core values including respect, communication, and self-directed teamwork.
This year's challenge, Aqua Adventure challenges kids to learn about how water gets to them in their home and school, and how to journey can be improved. To increase the challenge, the designs must include a motorized part and an original 3D printed element.
Last year we had two teams which met after school, and this year we have expanded the program to include the entire third grade. A partner school, E.L. Bouie Elementary plans to join us for the competition.
Tulip Test Garden
In this international science experiment, students in schoolyards across the northern hemisphere plant tulip bulbs in their gardens in the fall. The plants' ermergence is an early sign of the beginning of spring. As citizen scientists, students track changes in seasons and report their findings to the Journey North website. If repeated over several years, interesting data about world temperatures will emerge.
First grade teachers at Oak Grove have used this project for its cross-curricular potential. They include Lewis and Clark, scientific drawing, prediction, measurement, etc.
Students use technology resources to conduct research, demonstrate creative and critical thinking, and communicate and work collaboratively.
Oak Grove has long made use of various technologies to further our academic goals. In addition to computers, iPads, and Chromebooks, our technology includes a fully functioning TV studio and video editing space, usb microscopes, binoculars, compasses, STEM garden tools, GPS devices, balloon mapping kits, Spheros™, 3d printing space, Lego WeDo, EIE kits. etc. Despite this tech-rich environment, we attempt to use technology as tools to meet our curricular goals; to solve real world problems collaboratively. Technology for technology's sake isn't enough.
Each morning the WOGE news crew, consisting of 3rd, 4th and 5th graders write, produce, and broadcast a live news show. Most days this happens without adult involvement. The children collaborate and communicate effectively to ensure that technical and procedural issues are solved. Over the years at Oak Grove, these skills have become more embedded in who the children are and how they approach problems and each other.
Office 365 Collaboration Tools
Students are encouraged to make use of shared calendars and documents to augment our face-to-face collaboration.
With the help of a CDC cartographer, fith graders used ArcGIS software to map underground railroad routes hidden in the lyrics of Follow the Drinking Gourd
Oak grove students continually engage with coding though Hour of Code, We Do, Spheros™, Lego Night, Map Skills and Orienteering, and GroveBots our Lego Robotics competitive team.
Students coding Sphero™'s way around the bench and into the box
Green Screen Videos
During a recent PBL unit focused on human reaction to natural disasters (connected to the hurricane season of 2017) 4th graders began to explore the capability of our budding green screen. With little help from adults, the kids used the technology to put themselves in blizzards, volcanic eruptions, avalanches to increase the impact of their informational videos.
Map Skills and Orienteering
Using compasses for orienteering teaches sequencing and logical reasoning skills that are necessary for coding. Third grade students learn how to use a compass and practice their knowledge of cardinal directions while moving around an outdoor course of Georgia. It also reinforces their understanding of magnetic poles. Fifth graders not only follow a sequence of directions for different courses, but they also "program" or write a sequence of directions for their classmates to follow that takes them from one Georgia location to another.
This heightens communication and collaborative skills - essential for success in a STEM environment.
QR Colonial Days
During the first days of STEM at Oak Grove, Students developed and participated in a scavenger hunt using QR codes and iPads. The activity preceded a PBL unit built around the problem of survival through a, 18th century winter.
Students demonstrate their learning through performance-based assessments and express their conclusions through elaborated explanations of their thinking.
Oak Grove encourages its students to think independently and to express their thoughts freely. Ideas are hammered out in collaborative groups, issues are debated. Products are showcased.
4 Cs Self-Reflection
We give our students multiple opportunites to reflect on their own participatuion in the PBL Process using rubrics adapted from the Buck Institute.
Student Led Portfolio Nights
Twice a year Oak Grove portfolio nights where students lead an exhibit of their best work in front of friends and family.
IS SEESAW used for each
Outdoor Classroom/Learning Garden
Students address countless issues - from insufficient water runoff to underperforming compost piles - as they learn in the garden. They are encouraged to discuss, collaborate, and solve problems!
The GroveBots is a team of Oak Grove students who participate in First Lego League competitions.
Grovebots work as a team to find solutions with guidance from coaches and mentors.
All fifth grade students participate in the annual Oak Grove Science Fair. They decide on a topic, conduct research, design and conduct a real experiment, and then explain and defend their work to an adult judge.
Georgia STEM Day
At our 2017 Georgia STEM Day event, (and in the immediate aftermath of the Interstate 85 bridge collapse) all Oak Grove were challenged build bridges that can support weight while spanning a specific distance
Georgia STEM Day 2016
The Steamboat Challenge asked kids to design a boat capaple of both floating and supporting weight.
Texperts are a trained crew of students in grades take care of classroom technology, and who specialize in specific technical tasks: TV studio, Green screen, video editing, spheros, Aquaponics, Lego robotics, 3D Printing, etc. An important expectation of all Texperts is that they are to TEACH, not DO their expertise. Essentially they are to teach themselves out of a job.
As Dekalb County Schools has adopted the Office 365 environment, Students are encouraged to collaborate online with others through the use of shared docs, shared calendars, email, Padlet, etc
Section 2: STEM Educators
The interdisciplinary problem-based curriculum includes a focus on real world applications.
Over the last 5 years, most acutely in the last year alone, much has changed in the way that teaching and learning happens at Oak Grove. Once a faculty of highly talented and often cloistered experts, we are undergoing a paradigm shift around interdisciplinary teaching, collaborative planning and project based learning. One of the most difficult challenges as a school was finding real-world authentic problems that the children could relate to and use the EDP to help solve. However this year, the challenge has mostly been overcome. There are of course limits to curricular connections and sometimes it is wise not to force those links. When connections can be authentically made, or organically emerge, (see playground drainage below) we strive to make the most of them.
We have a developed a STEM Student Profile (see Standard 1.8) which lays out a specific set of 21st Century skills we hope our students adopt. The attainment of these skills will be monitored across grade levels through teacher rubrics and data gathered through Seesaw.
Playground Drainage Problem
In mid February of this year, a third grade class at recess noticed that the drainage system on the playground was malfunctioning.
Students immediately got to work on designing solutions to test and execute in the coming months. Children have contacted local environmental and civil engineers from our community, and they are in the embryonic stages of forming a redesign plan. They also plan to produce public service announcements to share their finding and encourage other students to monitor and address the problem.
Currently two different grade levels are tackling issues related to recovery from natural and human-made disasters, Below, students are examining how water travels through watershed, and how water pollution has been accelerated in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Irma.
First grade is looking into ways of combating the alarming potential loss of 640 million acres national parkland. Students will visit the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area and the Arabia Mountain National Heritage Area to learn first-hand about the precarious position national parks find themselves in.
Health Against Hunger
Our health students are looking into the problem of growing food in limited spaces, and tying this with areas of the world that in which overcrowding and adequate food supply are life and death issues.
STEM educators collaborate as an interdisciplinary team to plan, implement, and improve integrated STEM learning experiences.
Great care has been taken to provide ample time for teams to work together to plan highly engaging, collaborative, promlem-based units
Semester Unit Planning
Teachers collaboratively develop unit plans ranging typically from 6 to 12 weeks. All subjects are integrated. We began with 2 full days in August/September (with substitutes provided by the Oak Grove Foundation) followed by 2 dedicated hours weekly for STEM planning.
Grade 4 Unit Plan:
At Oak Grove we recognize that this collaborative planning is often differentiated -in that it reflects the reality that we have varying degrees of understanding of the STEM process across the staff. There is systematic support built in to our collaboration to bolster those who need it.
Oak Grove teachers meet monthly in an EdCamp setting. EdCamp is an "organic, participant-driven, un-conference (setting) that empowers educators to maximize professional learning experiences and peer networks." Essentially, topics are generated by participants, leaders emerge, and ideas are shared.
We instituted Stem Roundtables in January to increase STEM collaboration across grades levels and departments. Groups representing each grade level, special education and special areas meet monthly to discuss current PBL units, triumphs and difficulties, and relevant STEM topics.
There is an astonishing amount of self-reflection and evaluation that occurs at our roundtables. Teachers assess themselves against others, which can be challenging, but they also relish the constructive criticism from peers in a safe environment.
The STEM Padlet
The STEM Lead and Coordinator, upon suggestions by teachers, created the STEM Padlet: a shared space to collaborate and disseminate information. Current PBL units, relevant research, likes, dislikes and comments are all accessible from: https://padlet.com/e20054106/wieb217unvu5
Regular STEM Core Team Meetings
The STEM Core team, consisting of STEM Coordinator and Lead, teachers and administrators, meets monthly to discuss program needs and direction.
Oak Grove's STEM Summer Institute
Oak Grove understands that STEM Certification is only the first step. In order to establish and maintain a STEM-focused, collaborative learning community, teachers must have time to engage in thoughtful and meaningful planning. To that end, funding (through the Oak Grove Foundation) is being secured to pay teachers for summer planning consisting of 20 hours in 2018. This will continue with 15 hours during the summer of 2019, and 10 hours each subsequent year.
STEM learning outcomes demonstrate students’ STEM literacy necessary for the next level of STEM learning and for post- secondary and workforce readiness.
At Oak Grove we are in the process of defining just what it means to be STEM literate. Each grade level will have minimal standards built around the following: Technology Systems, Digital Citizenship, Technology for Learning and Collaboration, Technology for Communication and Expression, and Technology for Information Use and Management.* Students will be well versed in the language of STEM: Project base learning, collaboration, problem solving, engineering design process, etc. Students will also maintain digital portfolios to catalogue work over their years at the school.
Our children now understand how the STEM skill set will positively augment their social and Academic development as they work through school, college, later, careers.
STEM Student Profile March 2018
The Oak Grove STEM Student Profile divides the student body into 2 bands, K-2 and 3-5 and
Focus on 4 Cs and EDP Language
We have made a concerted effort encourage our students to embrace the language of STEM. through continued reference to images in the classroom. As a result we have seen a dramatic increase in STEM-literate conversations during this past year.
Parent/ Community Involvment
We have also increased our students' exposure to the work done in STEM fields by bringing in outside expertise whenever possible.
STEM teachers and leaders participate in a continuous program of STEM-specific professional learning.
This is an area in which Oak Grove hasmade tremendous gains in the current school year. Before 2017-2018, our professional development was top-down and unfocused. With a move toward problem-based learning, and and embrace of the EDP to solve all sorts of problems, we realizied that WE were the most powerful source for professional development. We created the STEM Roundtable - a monthly meeting of teachers across grade leveles and content areas to have robust conversations about the project baserd learning, integrated planning, and the triumphs and travails of STEM-focused teaching and learning. We embraced EdCamp to tap on the expertise withtin our staff, and we developed the STEM Summer Institute to bring us together over the summer for extemded professional development
Oak Grove STEM Summer Institute and EdCamp
EdCamp is our monthly “unconference”. As stated earlier, EdCamp “bring(s) together teachers and administrators and promotes learning through an organic, participant-driven experience where educators drive the agenda of their own learning, providing an alternative to traditional professional development.” As we move into the STEM process, teachers, coaches and administrators have identified the need for specific professional development. It could be writing better project-based learning questions, sharing how SeeSaw helps kids keep dynamic portfolios, or even cooperatively tackling a district mandated technology requirement. Participants identify problems and topics, then work together to grow the capacity necessary to address these from within.
The STEM Summer Institute was spearheaded by our principal and is to be funded by the Oak Grove Foundation. Over the course of 4 days in July most of the staff will convene to reflect on this year in STEM, and to look forward to greater success and student engagement for next. We will have professional development on project-based learning and on Office 365 and how it can be used to increase collaboration between teachers and students. But mostly teachers will be given the crucial time needed to plan academically rich and relevant project-based learning units.
These two professional development opportunities came about as a result of incremental stepping towards toward STEM implementation at Oak Grove. As a school and facuilty we are proud of how we have self-assessed our professional development needs and have differentiated training to ensure there is a balance of understanding across the faculty. Our achievements for this year have revolved around understanding the power and successful implementation of project-based learning. While we have recognized the beauty of holistic curricular integration, and student-centered inquiry, we realize we still have a long way to go to perfect this process.
Of course another critical piece of our continuous, STEM-specific professional learning is our STEM Roundtables. These conversations revolve around topics selected by members of the STEM Core Team to address specific needs and to fill specific gaps. They also provide group members access to other grade levels so that the faculty can increase awareness of the program as a whole, to share best practices, and to discuss concerns and frustration with colleagues in a collaborative and supportive environment. Recent agenda:
STEM Collaborative Planning Days
All Oak Grove grade level teams are given 2 full STEM planning days per semester, This time is used to create and fine-tune integrated, project-based learning units. In weekly team meetings, time is devoted to reflection and adjustment of PBL units.
The STEM Leads work with administration to plan training that augments the program, whether it is updating the staff on certification status, or addressing hardware and software issues that directly impact the program.
In 2017, Retired Fernbank teacher and author/creater of Kids Rock! Bill Witherspoon, visited Oak Grove to provide professional development about his program. Teachers received background information on Georgia geology as well as specific training on the use of Kids Rock!
Upon purchasing a class set of Sphero™ robots, all teachers were given opportunities to use the robots and explore ways to use them in their classrooms. Sessions were led by a representative from Fernbank Science Center, one of our valuable community partners.
Section 3: STEM Experiences
Community, post-secondary, business/industry partners and/or families actively support and are engaged with teachers and students in the STEM program.
Over the last 4 years, Oak Grove has been hard at work building relationships with entities outside of our school walls. We began with our parents and families - a valuable resource, especially at this school. We started small, with Career Day, and bringing in expert visitors on a class-by-class basis. Using our Parent Database below, we continue to tap into the vast expertise of our parents. We have expanded to include recurring collaboration with professors and grad students, a well-developed and completely unique relationship with Fernbank Science Center, and recurring outreach to families and neighbors.
With a wealth of highly educated and motivated parents at Oak Grove, we recognized the potential for developing strong partnerships with businesses, universities, and government agencies. We developed a database of expertise to engage our community in class visits, collaborative activities, and long range study. This database is available to all teachers and grades, and the STEM team routinely arranges class visits and presentations.
This database provides a pool of expertise from which teachers can draw to enrich lessons, and to demonstrate the connection between what we do here at Oak Grove and the work that is done beyond our walls. The list is comprised of 110 experts and is continually growing.
Oak Grove Herbarium
Working in concert with faculty and graduate students from the Emory University Herbarium, Oak Grove fifth graders over the last two years have been establishing our own Oak Grove Herbarium. For the untrained, a herbarium is a museum of preserved plant samples that are used for botanical research and education. Using samples from our garden and under the direction of university personnel, our students have learned the process of picking, drying, pressing, mounting, and identifying botanical samples from the garden. Next year we plan to establish a permanent and curated collection in our library.
Dr. Cassandra Quave is Curator of the Emory University Herbarium and Assistant Professor of Dermatology and Human Health at Emory University, where she leads antibiotic drug discovery research initiatives and teaches undergraduate courses on medicinal plants, food and health. She is also an Oak Grove parent. Dr. Quave and her staff make connections for our students between medicinal plants around us and the use of plants in the development of drugs which combat infectious diseases and save lives today.
Fernbank Science Center
Fernbank Science Center is a cherished institution for all Dekalb County students and teachers, but Oak Grove has been able to bring about a uniquely designed STEM program that goes beyond the typical lessons offered to the rest of the county. Our STEM Coordinator, Kendall Xides, also works at Fernbank Science Center, and through her, we have been able to develop deep and lasting relationships with this valuable resource. Experts regularly visit to provide teacher training or to work with students.
After attending a STEM conference session on Nanotechnology presented by Georgia Tech in the fall of 2014, we had the idea for a nanotechnology day at Oak Grove, and chose October 10 for our 10-10 day. Working closely with Joyce Palmer, Nanotechnology Educator at Georgia Tech, and Mary Breen, NanoDays coordinator at Fernbank Science Center, we created a day of hands-on lessons for preK-5th grade that explores the powers of ten, large and small. In 2015 and 2017, Georgia Tech Institute for Electronics and Nanotechnology visited on 10-10 Day with a Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM). Mrs. Breen assisted in planning activities, provided supplies, and loaned non-consumable items from Fernbank's NanoDays (partnership with NISE - National Informal STEM Education) for Oak Grove to use. Some activities on 10-10 Day include: measuring your height in nanometers, using pocket microscopes to examine money, learning about magnification through binoculars, NNIN's "What is the smallest thing you know" lesson, and exploratory stations with a variety of microscopes, Nanooze Magazine, and a variety of other games and lesson from NISENET and NNIN. Since 2016, all K-3 teachers as well as 4 &5 science teachers have a USB microscope in their classroom. In 2017, our 10-10 Day was featured on the National Nanotechnology Initiative website Nano.gov
In 2018 Lego Night expanded to Engineer Night. Some Lego activities, like the lego walk, remain, but the scope of the event was more far-ranging. A Over 20 interactive stations allowed families and community members the opportunity to operate Spheros and drones, see Lego Robotics and 3D printers in action, use 3D pens, Keva blocks, Cubelets, Beebots, and judge the Brick Film Festival
At our 2017 LEGO night, open to families and community members, participants were challenged to create a stop-motion film using legos. Other activities included CONTINUE
STEM Upload Partners
While not always directly impacting students, we still have been successful in connecting with many businesses in this close-knit community. In an effort to encourage teachers to document and share STEM activities with colleagues and the greater school community, we have partnered with local businesses to provide incentives to that end. Local restaurants, fitness centers and markets were happy to provide prizes for monthly drawings at faculty meetings. Much of the evidence provided here was gathered from the "Documents" page of this site.
Students are supported in their STEM learning through adult-world connections and extended day opportunities.
Adult-world Connections At-A-Glance
Oak Grove has made multiple connections with experts in STEM subjects and beyond. See 1.11 Addendum below.
Afterschool Garden Club
Third graders in our Extended Day program meet weekly to work in the garden. They explore compost's role in the garden and how it relates to their Project-based Learning units through a variety of different activities:
Lakeside High School/ Oak Grove Yearbook Partnership
Lakeside High School yearbook editors felt that many of the high school students applying for the yearbook lacked the necessary skills be staff members. They partnered with Oak Grove where they mentored 5th grade students in the after school program teaching them all aspects of yearbook production including photography skills, photo editing, layout design, and publishing. The mentors' hope is that the elementary students will be inspired to join the yearbook in middle school so that by the time they reach high school, there will be a better pool of candidates for yearbook staff. Oak Grove students had to complete an application with a teacher recommendation to participate, and met 2-3 times a month during the fall and winter during the after school program. The Oak Grove yearbook, which has historically been a parent-only product, will have 3 spreads created by Oak Grove yearbook staff as well as many photographs contributed by the students. The hope is that over time, more and more of the responsibility will be transferred to students. Students strengthened their creative thinking, problem solving, and collaboration skills, as well as becoming more technological savvy and now have the confidence to use these skills in future pursuits. Yearbook parents, OGE after care directors, and Lakeside partners felt it was mutually beneficial for all involved. The Lakeside High School students plan to continue the program next year and hope to increase participation by offering an initial information session to after school participants instead of an informational flyer.
On a recent overnight trip to Driftwood Education Center on St. SImons Island, these students were the epitome of responsibility. They kept and cared for digital cameras and documented the entire trip for the yearbook. It was abundantly clear that the added responsibility had a positive affect on all.
Dekalb Watershed Fairoaks Road Project
For the past 9 months, the Oak Grove community has been disrupted by a large scale public works project. Water and sewer pipes located along Fairoaks road have been dug up and replaced, causing periodic delays and detours.
Fifth grade has been studying ways to improve infrastructure, so the Dekalb County Watershed's Public Education Liason and Project Manager for the Fairoaks project came to update students on the cause and solution of the problem, and to provide a forum for questions.
Grades 3-5 students in our extended day program were offered once-weekly time in the STEM lab tackling traditional STEM/EDP challenges involving propulsion, structural engineering, forces and motion, etc. The program suffered from scheduling issues and staffing, but is intended to be revived for 2018-2019.