Something to buzz about: Eton Elementary earns STEM certification

State School Superintendent Richard Woods, middle, holds the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) certification banner with Eton Elementary students Breely Buchanan, 9, left, and Logan Carter, 11, on Thursday.

ETON, Ga. — For the past five years, the students at Eton Elementary School have been busy little bees. On Thursday, all of that hard work by the students and staff paid off in a big way. 

State School Superintendent Richard Woods and several local dignitaries were on hand to celebrate the school becoming the first school in Murray County to become a STEM (science, technology, engineering and math)-certified school. Woods said the school was one of about 70 in the state that have earned the certification.

“It has been a long process, but it has been an enjoyable one,” Principal Judy Redmond said. “When we started, we thought this would be the perfect fit for our children. Because it is combining science and technology and giving them the ability to inquire and discover, our teachers jumped on board and the kids were so excited. ‘Think outside the box’ sort of became the main saying in these challenges.”

The STEM program at Eton focuses on “Save the Bees” with environmental projects incorporating all four STEM components. Each class at each grade level works on hive-like collective projects to build on the work of others, progressing to more advanced and complicated projects as the students advance in grade level and complete new challenges. The projects encompass everything on the STEM spectrum from agricultural to robotics.

And it is that variety that makes the program so exciting for student Logan Carter.

“I think when we are designing and building challenges for the whole school to do and figuring out what we want to do for our STEM days, I really like that,” said Carter, who spoke during the ceremony. “When we are doing our challenges as teams in classrooms, I really think that is fun.”

And Carter said working toward the goal of gaining certification was something all of the students bought into.

“The day when Miss Redmond announced it, everybody in all the classrooms were so excited and really happy for us to be the first STEM-certified school in Murray County,” Carter said. 

According to the state’s STEM education website, the certification process involves the adaptation of lesson planning, facilities, technology and student-driven projects and developments. The process also involves specific professional training for teachers, and competition and research projects for students.

“It is all collaborative and all encompassing and it is a wonderful program,” Redmond said. “And everything we do, our kids take home with them and it ripples throughout the community.”

Woods said STEM programs are especially important in rural communities looking to build new skill sets and opportunities for students who traditionally would not have those sorts of opportunities.

“We hope to use Eton as a resource, too,” Woods said. “We only have a limited number of STEM-certified schools in the state — about 70, I think — and we have about close to 2,300 (schools) in the state. Hopefully by working together and putting a strong curriculum into place, allowing kids to create a world in which they are engaged and collaborate and really become problem-solvers, that will prepare them for life.”

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