The Indiana Department of Education (IDOE) has named Crichfield Elementary a STEM Certified School.
Crichfield was just one of 18 schools recently added to the state list of certified schools and is now only one of 78 schools in Indiana to have the distinction. The certification will last until the 2024 school year before Crichfield will have to reapply.
“I was elated to learn that we had been named an Indiana State STEM Certified School! It was great to be able to share the news with the STEAM Team, the staff and Crichfield families. A lot of work went into this process, and I am proud of the work that the STEAM Team has done for our school this year,” Donna Biggs, Crichfield principal, said.
According to the IDOE, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) Certified Schools exemplify a highly non-traditional approach to education by employing a great deal of inquiry, project based learning, community engagement, entrepreneurship, student centered classrooms, and out-of-school STEM activities. STEM Certified Schools have been able to accomplish this feat while following educational policies set by the state and excelling under the system of accountability. Certified schools go through a rigorous application and review process in order to be awarded.
The Cougar staff has been engrossed in integrating STEAM into every aspect of the school. The spark to become a STEM Certified School all began last summer while a group of teachers went to the IDOE Teach To Lead Summer STEM Summit. They took what they learned from that summer and brought it back to the school.
“After the school year started, the momentum of the team really picked up, and we knew we were heading in the right direction. We really didn’t plan on seeking STEM certification until next school year, but we were encouraged by the state to evaluate our initiatives and submit our rubric,” Biggs said.
It truly has been full STEAM ahead this year with staff attending workshops and professional development, having community members and organizations visit the school, revamping guidelines for curriculum maps and instruction, reinforcing the importance of the Cougar Companion program, improving their Makerspace area, hosting various family nights that showcase the innovative and engaging lessons and allow families to be a part of the fun, creating new extra-curricular activities for students, and submitting an intensive certification application to the IDOE.
After the application process, Crichfield had a conference call and an on-site visit from the IDOE to answer more questions and to show the integration and intentionality in action. Each step took the Cougars closer and closer to their goal of being certified, but each step also helped the staff see and focus on the “why” behind it all, as STEM teaches Employability Skills and Indiana College and Career Readiness standards, supports differentiation and inclusion for all students, and provides opportunities for student SEL support and interactions.
More than just checking boxes, the Crichfield staff has truly bought into the importance of the work and has grown because of it.
“Teachers have begun to put more intention to what they are teaching and how they are delivering the lessons. Our staff began the process by looking at what was already being done in the classrooms and how a few additions and/or changes could make it even better and meet the STEM qualifications of a unit. Teachers have used each other to better themselves and their students by allowing classes to work together to learn. The collaboration amongst staff and students has accelerated, causing excitement throughout the building,” Allison Younggreen, Crichfield teacher and STEAM Team Lead, said.
This distinction is not just celebrated by Crichfield staff. This is a highlight for the entire district.
“We are very proud of the fact that Crichfield earned its STEM School distinction. The staff and students worked hard to demonstrate that the STEM learning experiences and master plan at Crichfield rise to the level of distinguishing them as an Indiana STEM School. More excitingly is the thought of the learning that students will be engaged in which will better prepare them for college and career pathways,” Mark Francesconi, LPCSC superintendent, said.
The entire undertaking of becoming STEM Certified has been one of excitement for students and staff alike. There is an invigorated energy in the halls and within the classrooms.
“By going through this process, it has made me become more intentional with my own teaching. Watching students get excited about the different topics and making more connections to the real world has really fueled the fire. It is definitely a work in progress still, but it is very exciting to see what we have already done in the last year. Crichfield has a very exciting future for the staff, students, parents, and community members. I am so proud to be a Cougar!” Younggreen said.
The complete list of STEM Certified Schools in Indiana can be found here.