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Creating a Community of Science Enthusiasts

How Pivot Interactives Helped Create a Community of Science Enthusiasts

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Westside Community Schools
Omaha, Nebraska

Meet Judith Stucky, the "Original" Pivot Interactives Teacher

Judith (Judy) Stucky never thought she would go into education. But when she discovered a love of teaching science, not only was she pleasantly surprised, but she was hooked!

In college, I kept changing my major repeatedly, from computer science to electrical engineering, to physics. But I had a wonderful physics professor who asked me to be a TA for one of his physics labs. It was the best class I had and was truly the highlight of my time as a student. Every week I helped other people learn physics … I got to show them how much fun physics was!

Fast forward 33 years later, and Judy still loves every minute of teaching. Today, she is a physics instructor at Westside High School in Omaha, Nebraska, where she has been teaching for the last two decades. It was here that she first discovered Pivot Interactives, becoming the first teacher to use the program. She still uses it today and continues to find creative ways to bring science to life for her students and share Pivot with her colleagues. We spoke with Judy to learn more about how she first came to use Pivot Interactives and how the partnership has grown over the years to support teachers and students at the high school in many ways.

Pivot Interactives' Impact on Westside High School

Westside High School is unusual in that physics is one of the graduation requirements. Because of this, the school offers a variety of physics classes to reach a broad spectrum of students, including AP Physics 1 and 2, and AP Physics C (Mechanics and Electricity & Magnetism). Like her experience as a TA, Judy saw an opportunity to engage all students with the subject. She leaned on Pivot Interactives to help her.

Just like when I was a TA in college, I’m engaging with high school students several times a day, and many times with those who don’t necessarily like math or physics but are required to take the class. I try to show them how much fun I think it is, but also get them interested along the way. I was also part of a STEM team for a variety of courses, including engineering and mechanics, for students who are really interested in these subject areas.

Adopting Pivot allowed Judy to move away from the textbook labs and toward a higher variety of labs. It also gives science instructors more tools and experiences to demonstrate the different topics and ideas they want to share with students.

At first, teaching physics was just textbooks and whatever labs I made up. But when I had to teach AP Physics B for the first time, I needed more advanced labs that included Vernier Graphical Analysis. With Pivot, the labs were already there! Labs that I never thought of, that include engaging videos. The students loved it and found it fascinating to record things and calculate energy and motion. With the frame-by-frame analysis, they can break down any type of motion, and those students want detail and precision in their measurements. They also know Pivot will help make the graph for them. My AP Physics C students still ask if they can use Pivot—it’s their go-to!

Lesson Planning & Skill Building

What Judy finds helpful is both the Pivot team in their attentiveness, and the effective, multi-purpose use of Pivot itself—keeping students on track when anyone is absent (including her), remediating general physics skills, and allowing students to steer the activity to learn new skills. It even offers hands-on labs in a digital setting that provide a similar experience students would see in the classroom.

Pivot allows for a higher variety of labs and, in some ways, helps speed up part of the lesson. If we’re done teaching graphing skills, for example, why not have the program graph some of the labs we do so we can focus more on physics and skip plotting points? It gives us a wider variety of tools and experiences that we can use to demonstrate the many topics and ideas we want to share with our students.

We also use Pivot often for summative labs. While students can consult each other for help, they all must do their own work! One lab in Pivot has 40 different videos, so the odds of having two students with the same video were very slim. This sets them up to help each other, but not copy off each other.

When the science team went to the NSTA conference, we used Pivot to help us plan lessons. On day one the students received the data, on day two they got the graph, and on day three they completed an extension activity and finished up the lab. Pivot is so helpful for us with such short class periods—we save time, and the students can’t lose their work!

Students' Perspective

My AP students want to videotape every lab that they do and put it in Pivot! For my reluctant students, they like that Pivot helps them create the graph and offers the flexibility of completing work at home. They also love that some questions tell them if they’re right or wrong and that even the open-ended questions give them a chance to review the data as they answer.

Lightbulb Moments

Judy and her colleagues at Westside High School believe Pivot helps students build skills they use in higher-level classes, and in many cases inspires them to rethink their interest in STEM.

I once had a student in general physics who didn’t like math and science much, until physics. He was always very good at doing the labs in Pivot and asking questions. The next year, this “reluctant” science student signed up for AP physics and did very well! What we did in general physics made him see a different side to math and science that he really enjoyed.

Judy and her colleagues at Westside High School believe Pivot helps students build skills they use in higher-level classes, and in many cases inspires them to rethink their interest in STEM.

We are finally getting non-physics teachers on board with Pivot! Chemistry teachers and the biology team both have started using it. In fact, the chemistry teacher came to me right after trying it and said, “We just used Pivot for the first time, and it is awesome!” With the biology team, there was some hesitancy, but we have one teacher who teaches physics and biology. After using Pivot 2-3 times in the first month, teachers and students are really enjoying it! All in all, Pivot simplifies your life as a teacher and student learning without adding to your workload.

Advice from a Veteran Teacher

It’s teachers like Judy Stucky that show how choosing the right EdTech tools, and using them effectively, supports students in so many ways, and allows teachers to be the teacher they set out to be. We asked her what kind of advice she would bestow upon other teachers first starting out and gave us some insight that we couldn’t have said better.

From 5 AM to 10 PM, you make a million decisions as a science teacher—spur of the moment changes you must adapt to. It can be frustrating, but you make a difference. You see those differences years down the road. I’m still in contact with students from 30 years ago! Just remember, you can’t be that person for every student, but you can certainly be that person, that impactful teacher, for someone. They need you and you need them, making it very rewarding.

Quick Facts

Partnership Details

  • 14 schools serving 6,200 students
  • Partners with Pivot Interactives since 2012

Solutions

  • Pivot Interactives

Classroom Application

  • Supplemental 
  • Hands-on Learning
  • Cross-Curricular Support
  • Teacher Support

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Finding Synergy Between Digital Curriculum and Technology Tools

Finding Synergy Between Digital Curriculum and Technology Tools

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Cherokee County School District

Canton, GA

Onslow

Onslow County Schools

Jacksonville, NC

Discovery Education's Impact

To support technology-rich teaching, districts search for high-quality digital curriculum to create rigorous lessons and tools that make it easy for students to access these learning resources. Georgia’s Cherokee County School District and North Carolina’s Onslow County Schools found that using Discovery Education resources in tandem with their districts’ Microsoft tools brought high-quality digital curriculum to all students in a seamless, accessible way.

Implementing anything new—a resource, a strategy, or a tool—requires time to explore new information and find ways to implement it into daily practice. However, finding a new tool that already fits into a teacher or student’s daily routines can help eliminate some of the onboarding needed. Discovery Education’s time-saving, easy-to-implement resources connect synergistically with tools like Microsoft, which means teachers can get back to teaching and students can get back to learning.

Cherokee County School District

When Cherokee County School District decided to pursue the Cognia STEM Certification, their goal was to help students develop cross-curricular skills that would apply to their future careers. With career profiles and engaging activities to encourage STEM thinking, Discovery Education Experience‘s high-quality content stood out to CCSD leaders. As an added bonus, Experience also fit seamlessly within the district’s existing Microsoft infrastructure. Finding that educators and students could access Discovery Education Experience through their existing Microsoft 365 accounts meant that the training time could be focused solely on helping teachers maximize their use of DE’s educational resources in the classroom rather than the technical implementation.

Looking ahead, CCSD continues to build engaging STEM learning experiences and explore how technology can help students develop critical skills while giving educators new methods to reach and help them. In this ongoing endeavor to advance student learning in all subject areas, Discovery Education and Microsoft continue to serve as helpful partners for CCSD teachers.

Onslow County Schools

Onslow County Schools is heavily influenced by its proximity to Camp Lejuene, the East Coast’s largest Marine Corp base, and recognizes its unique challenges in providing a consistent, uniform learning experience when students and teachers frequently join and leave the school community due to military commitments. To help offer a more equitable learning experience, the district implemented a one-to-one device initiative in 2014, so students and teachers could regularly access a Learning Management System created with Microsoft tools. 

District leaders also aimed to use these devices to help centralize content for all subject areas and save teachers time, so the ready-to-use, standards-aligned lessons and instructional strategies from Discovery Education Science Techbook were the perfect fit. The simple connection between Microsoft tools and Discovery Education solutions helps streamline onboarding and offers a consistent learning experience for all students in the district.

For Onslow County Schools, the journey to create an equitable student learning experience is continuous. The district continues to refine its digital ecosystem, aiming to increase student engagement, see improvement in learning outcomes, and offer comprehensive accessibility. The partnership between Onslow County Schools, Discovery Education, and Microsoft is an integral part of this journey, as teachers know they can count on these digital tools to help aid them in the planning and teaching process.

Looking Ahead

As the education landscape changes, technology options must evolve with it.Teachers and students have varying needs, and EdTech partners must adapt to chase these moving targets. Discovery Education provides a variety of supports to help educators personalize learning experiences and better meet their students’ unique needs, such as Microsoft Immersive Reader, translation tools, and flexible presentation options. As staffing changes continue to impact schools (and as a result, more students), district leaders are searching for education technology partners that proactively keep up with student and educator needs.

“Discovery Education and Microsoft are both paying attention to what’s going on in education in 2023 and beyond, and they are making changes that move with us as school districts."1

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Dr. Shannon Carroll
Supervisor of Instructional Technology, Cherokee County Schools

Finding the “right” technology to help students learn new concepts and communicate this new knowledge can seem like a daunting process. Questions around access, device capabilities, and rigor of the content are sure to arise as new tools are researched, but finding tools that work well with what is already familiar can help ease the transitions. Partners like Discovery Education and Microsoft that can come together and offer dynamic learning experiences help support educators and students as they embark on a new journey—one that will be filled with learning and excitement.

Quick Facts

Cherokee County School District Details​

  • 40 schools and centers serving 42,000+ students
  • Partnered with Discovery Education since 2019

Onslow County Schools Details​

  • 41 schools and centers serving 28,000 students
  • Partnered with Discovery Education since 2021

Solutions

  • Experience
  • Science Techbook
  • Social Studies Techbook

Classroom Application

  • Technology in the Classroom
  • Hands-on Learning
  • Teacher Support
  • Cross-Curricular Support

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Streamlining STEM Education to Better Support Teachers

Streamlining STEM Education to Better Support Teachers

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Washoe County School District

Washoe, Nevada

Discovery Education's Impact

After the COVID-19 pandemic, Washoe County School District in Nevada biggest challenges were student engagement, learning loss, and how to manage the adaptation of varying STEM instruction from campus to campus. Middle school subjects were taught in silos yet had a STEM lab, high school STEM focused on Career & Technical Education, and elementary schools took a cross-curricular approach to STEM that was supported by a computer lab. 

To combat the challenges from the pandemic and support the different types of STEM instruction, the Nevada State Department of Education—with funding support from Nevada Gold Mines—selected Discovery Education Experience as a statewide option for its ease of use, ability to reach learners wherever they are, and high-quality, standards-aligned content. It proved to be the right choice because teachers like those in Washoe School District could rely on Experience to supplement instruction no matter how they taught STEM, while ensuring student engagement at multiple levels.

I initially was worried about implementing a new program, but when Discovery Education’s team came on board, the partnership just clicked! They provided the perfect resources to share with teachers so that I wouldn’t have to recreate the wheel; the way it’s set up makes it so easy to use. It continues to be such a strong partnership because of DE’s ability to understand what works best for our educators and students.
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Kindra Fox
Director of Secondary Curriculum & Instruction, Washoe County School District

Experience also made an impact on the level of rigor in lessons to meet the district’s goals for student success. Finding the wealth of standards-aligned activities in Experienceencouraged many teachers to reflect on the standards they were teaching and see how they can enhance the rigor of their lessons using the helpful resources in Discovery Education and in their core program.

In Discovery Education Experience, there are great videos, but the best part is that there are also questions, graphic organizers, or activities embedded into the videos that will hold students accountable for the learning. These strategies and activities are what take the content to the next level for my students.
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Aaron Grossman
5th Grade Teacher, NV

Lightbulb Moments

Discovery Education gives teachers control over how to navigate and use the resources to fit their classroom teaching and learning needs. Teachers found they can execute individual assignments easily, like videos, or conduct whole-class instruction. They can deliver the lessons in multiple ways to fit the needs of their classrooms and students. For example, Discovery Education can support learning both at school and at home, giving them continual access to engaging learning resources like Virtual Field Trips.

From small group instruction to activity centers to independent study, it’s really appealing for a teacher because It's not the same “watch a video, do some questions” approach—it takes the monotony away and lends itself much more to engagement with students. And when students are willing to learn at a deeper level, Discovery Education really shines.
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Kindra Fox
Director of Secondary Curriculum & Instruction

Looking Ahead

Between the curriculum leaders in Washoe County School District and the Discovery Education team, much is being done to find new ways to bring Discovery Education to more teachers, especially at the high school level. This close partnership focuses on identifying the needs of the high schools and targeting those needs through Discovery Education’s resources and professional learning. The district is also taking strategic steps in improving communication and outreach to their 100+ schools regarding the multitude of ways that Discovery Education can support effective teaching and learning.  

Quick Facts

School Details

  • Statewide partner with Discovery Education since 2020

Solutions

  • Discovery Education Experience
  • Professional Learning

Classroom Application

  • Supplemental Instruction
  • Cross-curricular support
  • Alignment to standards

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Making a Change in STEAM Culture​

Making a Change in STEAM Culture

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Cherokee County School District

Acworth, GA

Discovery Education’s Impact

With increased awareness on the immediacy of providing students with STEAM opportunities that prepare them for a bright future, Cherokee County School District was committed to ensuring educators could instill a new and effective STEAM culture in their classrooms. In 2019, Cherokee County School District launched a 3-year partnership with Discovery Education to transform the STEAM culture in its elementary and middle schools. Through this innovative partnership, a professional learning program was implemented to build capacity in high-quality STEAM instruction and help teacher-leaders across the district bring engaging, personalized, and inquiry-based learning to classrooms. Together, Discovery Education and Cherokee addressed the district’s strategic goals to:

  • Provide students with opportunities to become STEAM literate and competitive in the future workforce;
  • Transform a culture of teaching and learning that integrates critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and creativity to develop a student-centered learning environment;
  • Ignite a clear and uniform STEAM definition for the district;
  • Integrate digital content into a cohesive K-12 curriculum, with consistent and effective professional learning that supports a sustainable culture shift; and
  • Foster community, business, and key stakeholder engagement.

The partnership also gave K-8 teachers access to Discovery Education Experience, our PreK-12 learning platform, and Mystery Science to help them implement the culture shift in STEAM instruction and support cross-curricular learning. These solutions offer ways to engage students with real-world learning and give teachers peace of mind in planning their day.

My biggest challenge was finding materials that are student friendly. Discovery Education has eliminated the process of having to search through various resources to find information that is student friendly, and I know that students will like. Having two Discovery Education products within one platform eliminates the hassle of having to navigate extra resources. It has shortened my prep time significantly and has helped me spend more time with interventions and enrichment activities.

Looking Ahead

Today the partnership successfully delivers a quality, engaging STEAM education to K-8 students that builds leadership capacity, improves instructional practice, and increases student engagement. Through Discovery Education’s digital resources and professional learning support, educators across the district see the impact of investing in a STEAM culture that prepares their students for success.

Quick Facts

School Details

  • 40 schools and centers serving 42,000+ students
  • Partnered with Discovery Education since 2019

Solutions

  • Experience
  • Mystery Science
  • Professional Learning

Classroom Application

  • Supplemental STEAM for grades K‑5
  • STEAM leadership professional learning

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Building 21st-Century Skills Through Hands-On STEM Instruction

Building 21st-Century Skills Through Hands-On STEM Instruction

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St. Vrain Valley Schools

Longmont, CO

St. Vrain Valley Schools in Colorado is on a roll. In just under a decade, the district of 32,000 students has transformed itself through a variety of initiatives to provide students with a hands-on education that sets them up for success well beyond the halls of their schools.

“Our systematic approach is very unique,” says Superintendent Dr. Don Haddad. “What we’ve done is establish a pre-K–12 system where every one of our schools is focused on the things that we know work.”

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Haddad highlights the core components of St. Vrain—a district-wide 1:1 program, STEM studies that start at pre-K and run into higher education, curricula that push students to problem solve and employ critical thinking skills, a “design thinking” mindset from administrators, public–private partnerships, and effective professional learning that reinforces all these ideas.

That’s what makes the system work. What you see as a result is systematic gain. It’s not limited to one school—it’s district-wide.
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Dr. Don Haddad
Superintendent

Presenting the material in a new way can boost student understanding, too. Wellington says the district’s move to use Discovery Education Techbook has really changed how its students can understand our curriculum.

St. Vrain’s educators are finding new ways to use Discovery Education Science Techbook as a platform to enhance the hands-on experience of students, he said.

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“We are always looking for ways to incorporate 21st-century skills such as creativity, critical thinking, and collaboration. This mindset allows our teachers to push past previous limits of traditional educational practices, unleashing the learning and contribution potential of our future scientists,” said Michael O’Toole, the K–12 science coordinator at St. Vrain Valley schools.

Students have built robots, done computer programming, designed apps and websites, and even served as beta testers for companies.

Our district’s overall success is a result of all stakeholders, including the students, the teachers, the classified staff, the parents, the business community, and the elected officials, coming together to make a strong statement that educating our children is our top priority. And we in the St. Vrain Valley Schools could not be more grateful to the community for their support. That’s at the heart of why we’re so successful.
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Dr. Don Haddad
Superintendent

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Focus on STEM Drives Student Engagement and Achievement​

Focus on STEM Drives Student Engagement and Achievement

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Park Ridge Elementary School

Park Ridge Schools
Broward County, FL

A shift in focus to STEM learning results in improved student testing scores and engagement at Broward County Schools, according to a recent report.

A two-year study of Park Ridge Elementary School in Broward County, FL showed marked improvement after education leaders implemented the STEM focus supported by two services from Discovery Education — Science Techbook, a digital science textbook, and STEMformation, a standards-based professional development program.

The gains at Park Ridge followed an initiative at six elementary schools in Broward County designed to improve student outcomes by focusing on STEM studies. Students at all six schools demonstrated improvement on state assessments, but Park Ridge’s students in particular saw significant gains in their reading and math scores. Researchers attributed some of that success to Discovery Education’s implementation at the school.

The [STEMformation] program at Park Ridge ES, specifically, the integration of Discovery Education digital content and instructional practices into classroom instruction, has produced positive impacts on teaching and learning over the past two years.
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Report by Metis Associates
National Research and Consulting Firm

Student results were measured based on their performance on the Florida Standards Assessment (FSA) between 2016-2017. Park Ridge students showed a 6.1 percent increase in their reading scores, and a 3.1 percent increase in their math scores during the course of the study.

Learn More about Park Ridge Elementary School’s Incredible Advancement

Listen to this Blog Talk radio interview with Principal Joe Balchunas, who was Principal of Park Ridge Elementary at the time, as he discusses his experience, as well as the experience of the student and teachers under his leadership.

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STEM Support Creates a Dynamic Magnet Program​

STEM Support Creates a Dynamic Magnet Program

pinelake elementary

Pine Lake Elementary

Miami-Dade County Public Schools
Miami, FL

The hallways are abuzz with excitement every day at Pine Lake Elementary School, where students are actively engaged in the school’s new innovative STEM magnet program focused on botany and zoology. A year in, the school is seeing dramatic changes in school climate and culture.

Experiential Learning Attracts Hands-On Partners and Revives Student Interest

The magnet program, made possible through a U.S. Education Department Magnet Schools Assistance Program grant, aims to help students see themselves as forward-thinking, action-oriented global citizens and stewards of the environment. The project-based learning (PBL) curriculum provides students with experiences that emphasize high-level, research-based inquiry, resulting in engaging, real-world learning through partnerships with Zoo Miami, Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, the Everglades National Park, and Discovery Education.

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The program revitalized the school, which had been experiencing a downward trend in enrollment, student achievement, and community support over the previous five years. “The magnet program has served to reinvigorate curriculum focus, student achievement, and community involvement,” said Curriculum Support Specialist Marta de Tuya.

One year into the program, students are studying animals at Zoo Miami, examining diverse plant life at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, and experiencing one of the world’s most unique habitats at Everglades National Park.

Project-based learning is the only way to go. It appeals to all students. The kids are always excited when they get to class, and they’re disappointed if they miss a site visit.
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Marta de Tuya
Curriculum Support

STEM Support for Both Students and Teachers

In the late summer of 2018, Pine Lake Elementary partnered with Discovery Education to support teachers in cultivating engaging, rigorous, inquiry-based learning experiences for their students.

A cohort of educators were selected to work in partnership with Discovery Education through a multi-year professional growth program focused on PBL, a student-centered pedagogy that aims to deepen learning through active, dynamic learning experiences in which students solve real-world problems. The partnership included professional development to support teachers with STEM content and methodology, job-embedded professional coaching for more individualized support, and a STEM Family Night to engage and ignite the entire school community. The partnership also included access to a suite of Discovery Education digital curriculum and content tools—Discovery Education Experience and STEM Connect—for the duration of the 2018-19 school year.

The professional learning sessions focused on building a student-centered, STEM classroom using Discovery Education Experience and STEM Connect instructional resources designed to support transdisciplinary learning experiences. Teachers who participated in the session engaged in collaborative activities focused on how to integrate 21st-century skills with real-world challenges and how to inspire students to become solution seekers. The immersive sessions featured instructional strategies, model lessons, and collaborative lesson planning.

Dr. Evonne Alvarez, District Director of School Choice and Parental Options, said the implementation of PBL was a catalyst for change among both teachers and students.

The [professional development] from Discovery Education has been more than influential. Teachers have learned how to plan, align standards, and the project-based learning knowledge they acquired prepared them for that next tier of strategic work with students.
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Dr. Evonne Alvarez
District Director of School Choice and Parental Options

Dr. Robert Strickland, Administrative Director of School Choice and Parental Options at Miami-Dade County Public Schools, said the results were encouraging, and they are hoping to see them instituted at other schools.

“When you’re doing these kinds of changes in a school, it’s a change for everybody on the staff, not just the teachers. And for them to all buy in, understand the vision, and contribute to it, you don’t see that kind of thing very often,” he said.

Cultivating Community Collaboration

The shift in school culture and curriculum was accompanied by a comprehensive re-branding and community outreach campaign that highlighted the program’s thematic connection to a highly regarded magnet high school program in the county, BioTECH @ Richmond Heights 9-12.

“One of the first challenges that emerged in rallying the community was getting the parents and community members to truly believe in this new vision of learning,” said Dr. Strickland. “We changed the branding, the mascot, to something larger than life. We did community outreach, hosted local events, and brought the message to life on social media. In all of these efforts, we were trying to help the community see that this is part of a powerful, thematic feeder pattern. BioTECH has become very well known in the community for its conservation biology studies, and parents responded very well to knowing there’s a solid curriculum track to lead their kids to that school.”

As part of these efforts, Discovery Education—in collaboration with Pine Lake Elementary staff—hosted a STEM Family Night to bring the new approach to learning to life for the community.

The STEM Family Night hosted by Discovery Education made a huge splash. The parents were so excited we couldn’t get them to leave. It has really brought everybody together. I think Discovery Education played a critical role in getting buy-in from the community to be part of this new hands-on learning approach.
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Marta de Tuya
Curriculum Support Specialist

Nothing but Optimism for the Future of STEM

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While it is too early to draw any conclusions about the impact of the new curriculum on student achievement, the school did see a noticeable one-year uptick in fifth grade science Florida Standards Assessment (FSA) scores.

“Proficiency in the science FSA in prior years fluctuated a bit, but this past year there were dramatic gains,” noted Dr. Alvarez. “We saw fifth-grade student performance jump from 27 percent [in 2018] to 65 percent proficiency [in 2019].”

A year into the new program, the Pine Lake Elementary School community is energized. “These fresh learning opportunities have scattered the gloom around students’ expectations of what school is all about,” said Surey Rios, the magnet content teacher responsible for botany and zoology. “The hands-on learning makes them fearless, and when you’re fearless, it’s okay to be curious. That’s the first step to being a scientist.”

The hands-on learning makes them fearless, and when you’re fearless, it’s okay to be curious. That’s the first step to being a scientist.
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Surey Rios
Content Teacher

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