Wednesday, May 13, 2015

STEM in Action

Last week I had the opportunity to visit Victoriano Elementary School in the Val Verde Unified School District as they hosted a tour for the Partnership for 21st Century Learning Exemplar Schools awards committee. Students from all grade levels were eager to show what they were doing science, technology, engineering, and math. Primary students were studying botany and agriculture in the classroom and outdoors in their garden. Third through fifth grade students were learning about chemistry, robotics, and aquaponics.

Principal Caryn Lewis (follow her @VictorianoChief) makes STEM a priority at Victoriano. You can hear that in the voices of the teachers as they talk about the dedicated professional development time and the team planning time allocated for STEM. You can also hear it in the voices of the students who use scientific language to describe their inquiry process, their data collection and analysis, and even their job titles. One aquaponics team introduced themselves individually as the water chemist, the marine biologist, the botanist, and the system engineer. Even the parents came in to talk to the committee about what a difference the focus on STEM is making for their children.

Rancho Verde High School and Citrus Hill High School also get in on Victoriano's STEM activities.
Rancho Verde sends students to work on the agriculture and robotics programs, and Citrus Hill teachers help lead the large-scale aquaponics projects. Talking with these students makes it clear that science learning is a regular part of their day. The students convey excitement about their projects with their language and their actions. First graders were able to teach the five steps of scientific inquiry to the whole group of adults present. When first graders can explain photosynthesis to visitors, you know that great teaching and learning is happening there!

Whether or not Victoriano ends up receiving the P21 award, this school is a STEM education leader in Riverside County. If you have the opportunity to visit, Principal Lewis will make you feel welcome, the teachers will impress you, and the students will teach you about science. Ask any student at Victoriano about the scientific inquiry process and be prepared for an explanation using academic vocabulary and corresponding hand gestures.

Dennis Large
educator & learner

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