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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


  • 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

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

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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

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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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