Transitioning to STEM K-8

K-5 STEM is experiencing exciting changes and growth. For the 2015-2016 school year, STEM will roll up a 6th grade as part of our three-year K-8 Transition. Join us as we build an innovative and inspiring K-8 STEM program!

Over the past several months, a K-8 Exploration Team of staff and parents has been meeting to advocate for middle school roll up and begin initial planning. In January we will initiate a formal K-8 Design team to facilitate planning. A vital consideration is developing STEM K-8 vision and practices. Our middle school will be built on K-8 curriculum alignment, a strong K-8 school community, and STEM programs.

There are many questions and challenges to be faced over the next months and years. That’s what the Next Generation Science Standards are all about! Scientific and Engineering Practice #1 is Asking questions and defining problems. Scientific and Engineering Practice # 6 is Constructing explanations and designing solutions…

The K-8 STEM Design Team will be working to address many details in the months to come. Current thinking and answers for some common questions are below. Disclosure: This is a learning adventure! Although aligned to standards, answers are subject to change!

  • K-8 STEM will enroll two sixth grade classes in the fall of 2015. Seventh grade will start in 2016, and eighth grade will be added in 2017.
  • Craig Parsley and Travis DesAutels will teach 6th grade next year! We are excited to have two experienced STEM teachers with strong connections to the K-5 program jumping into the planning and transition.
  • In late January a K-8 Design Team will begin meeting regularly. Meetings will take place one to two times per month and include visits to other schools and organizations. A process for determining K-8 Design Team members will be announced after Winter Break.
  • Students currently at STEM will have enrollment preference for our middle school program. New 6th graders will be subject to the same enrollment policies of all option schools, such as sibling enrollment and geozones. Transportation guidelines are likely to be similar to current K-5 STEM and middle school guidelines, and are currently under discussion.
  • During the 2015-16 school year, STEM will continue to share the Boren facility with the Arbor Heights community. We are not certain yet how space use will change during that time, but we will have to be creative for a year! We will also be working with SPS to determine short-term and long-term building modifications necessary to support our K-8 program after Arbor Heights moves to their new facility.

What will our middle school program look like?

  • In order to build a successful middle school, we will need your support! K-5 families and the PTA will be asked to help in many ways. We are building a K-8 school, not just adding a 6th-8th grades.
  • A K-8 Design Team will continue to work out details of the middle school experience. The addition of middle school grades represents an opportunity to develop STEM vision and practices K-8! Some important components include an emphasis on STEM curriculum, Project-based learning (PBL) and Positive Discipline.
  • Science  Middle School curriculum in multiple subjects will be aligned the framework of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). These standards, developed by educators, scientists and business leaders, were released in 2013 and represent the latest thinking regarding innovative science education. In addition content goals (called Core Ideas), the NGSS outlines scientific practices and crosscutting concepts. These additional components include engineering practices and are readily integrated with PBL.
  • Math  We plan to provide a math pathway that leads to advanced math for all of our middle school students. We aim for all 8th graders to be eligible for honors and AP courses in high school. To support this goal, we are currently in discussion with Seattle Public Schools regarding the use of Singapore Math K-8.
  • Technology  The International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) Standards mirror 21st Century Learning Skills. K-8 STEM graduates have to be able to use technology tools to support creative thinking, collaborative work, and innovative problem solving. Our 6-8 program will be built on an learning platform that integrates technology. We are currently planning to provide a 1:1 device program for 6th grade students.
  • Project Based Learning (PBL) Project-based learning is a dynamic approach to teaching in which students explore real world problems and challenges. With this type of active and engaged learning, students are inspired to obtain a deeper knowledge of the subjects they’re studying. K-8 STEM is committed to continuing to develop PBL skills for students and teachers. Our K-8 Design Team will explore ways to build the middle school schedule and STEM curriculum around PBL experiences.
  • Schedule, Electives, After school programs The limited number of students and teachers, along with STEM curriculum and PBL, will drive a middle school schedule that evolves as grades roll up. To better serve students while meeting state requirements, the Design Team will consider innovative scheduling options, including a 5th-6th grade looping program, team teaching, and block schedules. We will search for student and family input regarding challenges such as how to provide electives, arts opportunities, and afterschool sports and clubs.

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