How do we build an educational environment that prepares children for challenges that they will face after they’ve left school? It’s a question asked by every generation of parents and educators. The answers have changed, however. Decades ago, when I was in school, my teachers focused merely on compliance. We sat in rigid rows at hard wooden desks, working diligently on our 3Rs of reading, writing, and arithmetic. We spoke very little. And when we messed up, Mrs. Cecil was quick to yank our little girl ponytails.. This, apparently,  was how we would learn what it took to get ahead in life.

 

In the twenty-first century, where we carry computers in our pockets and can be connected to anyone, anywhere, at any time, the challenges and opportunities facing children, parents, and educators are dramatically different. Not surprisingly, study after study has shown that students don’t respond well both to the techniques Mrs. Cecil used on us in elementary school and to the environment itself. These changes do not mean we’ve “gone soft.” Instead educational and business professionals together insist that these environments and teaching methods do not prepare children for life after school in the modern world.

 

The National Institute for Professional Practice has identified  four skill clusters needed to be successful in today’s workforce versus the workforce of the twentieth century. These clusters are

  • Digital-age literacy

  • Inventive thinking

  • Effective communication

  • High productivity

(https://www.professionalpractice.org/about-us/skills_for_success_2/)

 

Today’s educators realize that one of the surest ways to train and encourage students toward fluency in these four areas is through Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math, or “STEM” education. STEM education is interdisciplinary. It demands that students solve problems, think outside of the box, work collaboratively, and become fluent with  existing technology (defined as anything made by human hands) and with the process of technological development.

 

In order to continue educating students for their futures in this century, we at Tuscaloosa Academy have fostered STEM initiatives across all three divisions. In the Lower School, the new 1-to-1 iPad program affords students of all ages an opportunity to work together with coding and robotics. In the middle school, 5th and 6th grade computer classes will explore 21st century applications, engaging in collaborative work and creative presentation. Seventh and eighth grade students will wrestle through collaborative problem solving with STEM and Robotic electives. In the Upper School, Robotics classes will give students an opportunity to compete against other local high school bot programmers, and the new AP Computer Science class will have students writing their own computer programs.

 

A sampling of specific STEM opportunities at Tuscaloosa Academy this year includes:

  • Bee Bot robots for coding in the Kindergarten and Montessori classes

  • Dash and Dot robots for the Lower and Middle School

  • EV3 Core robots for the Robotics and AP Computer courses

  • Global Video Game Designers unit through Level Up Village in the 4th grade

  • Global Conversations through Level Up Village in the 5th grade

  • Robotics competitions for interested middle and upper school students

  • Legos challenges, bridge construction, Google Sketch-Up, and more

 

Of course, Tuscaloosa Academy continues to embrace tradition as well. The 3Rs remain foundational to all future pursuits. We strive to center ourselves at the intersection of tradition and innovation, teaching disciplinary content while at the same time challenging our students to foster their “soft” skills needed for this new landscape.

 

Finally, a word of thanks to TA Parent’s Association. Their generosity has helped us launch these new initiatives with state of the art learning equipment for every child. We look forward to seeing how our students grow!

 

For more information about our STEM program, please contact

Mrs. Tammi Scheiring.

STEM