Jasper Jr. High earns STEM certification

Posted 12/12/19

Jasper Jr. High School now has the distinction of being the only school in Jasper City Schools that is STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) certified.

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Jasper Jr. High earns STEM certification


Jasper Jr. High School now has the distinction of being the only school in Jasper City Schools that is STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) certified.

The school was officially named a Cognia Internationally Certified STEM School on Wednesday. The announcement comes after nearly two years of rigorous preparation and a two-day site visit this week from the Cognia team.

Cognia, formerly AdvacED, is an educational program that offers a number of support services for schools, including accreditation and certification, professional learning and other resources.

Representatives with Cognia interviewed students, administrators, parents, community representatives, and others during the two-day review.

After being named a STEM certified school early Wednesday afternoon, Jasper Jr. High Principal Lutis Moore called the school's seventh- and eight-grade students to the auditorium to share the achievement. He appeared rather frustrated and carried a paddle as he started giving a speech to students, but in seconds he started smiling and surprised them with the good news.

"It's a significant mark of distinction for us and selected schools that have received this honor," Moore said. 

Jasper Jr. High and Bankhead Middle School both received STEM certifications Wednesday and are now the only two schools in Walker County to be STEM certified.  

Assistant Principal Amy O'Rear said the path toward certification is challenging. Only 250 schools worldwide are international STEM certified, and fewer than 30 schools in the state of Alabama have received the honor.  Furthermore, even fewer junior high school have been STEM certified. 

"There's a lot of paperwork that is involved in this," O'Rear said, adding that schools have to meet 11 indicators to be STEM certified.

Jasper Jr. High has been implementing STEM activities into classroom instruction that challenges students to think critically and work in a group setting. Every member of the student body is also involved in a club activity, with many of the clubs being STEM driven. 

Instructor Whit Tucker leads some STEM-based enrichment classes at Jasper Jr. High and said he has worked with educators to incorporate STEM teachings. He is also part of a nine-member STEM committee at the school. 

"One of the big things has been helping lead the shift towards project-based learning and working to make that part of our school culture in all of our classes," Tucker said. "If you walk into one of our classrooms compared to somewhere that doesn't have this emphasis, you're immediately going to see the difference. You're going to see a level of engagement from our kids, a level of ownership of their learning that out of seventh and eighth graders is going to be hard to find in a lot of other places."

Moore said STEM instruction is critical for any school due to the growing number of jobs in science and career tech fields. 

With Jasper Jr. High having the STEM certified distinction, Moore said it will set an expected standard for students who attend the school and help prepare youth as they enter Jasper High School. He said achieving certification would not have been possible without the teachers, staff, students, and community on board.

"Our hope is that we're creating a pipeline for the kids that go to Jasper High School to go and excel just like they're excelling here," Moore said. "I'm really proud of our teachers, faculty and staff and our kids. This is huge for our community and is huge for the state, too."