Parrish Elementary seeking STEM certification

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PARRISH — Parrish Elementary School is taking steps toward an ultimate goal of AdvancED STEM Certification. 

"When you have a STEM certified school, you've had specialized training, you've met certain criteria to get that training," retired educator Vicki Howard said.

Howard is working with students at Parrish Elementary two or three days each week to help incorporate STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) lessons into everyday classroom instruction.

She worked in elementary classroom education for 20 years and was employed by the Alabama Math, Science, and Technology Initiative (AMSTI) for 10 years.

State Rep. Tim Wadsworth, R-Arley, recently donated $3,000 to Parrish Elementary which has helped provide STEM activity supplies. 

Howard recently instructed students to build a propeller-powered car, which challenged them to follow technical drawings for the car assembly. She's also been working with students to help them master mathematical problem-solving through a variety of activities. 

"They're getting these critical thinking skills, problem-solving skills, and then they learn to work with others. It's just a win-win situation," Howard said.

STEM activities require students to complete hands-on projects in a group setting. Howard said the activities don't necessarily have to be complex; rather, students simply need to be introduced to a problem and be motivated to solve it.

"Once you see those lessons and the conversations that the kids have, it will amaze you," she said.   

Students at Parrish Elementary are currently being introduced to the STEM process, in addition to traditional classroom instruction.  

Howard will continue working with students in all grade levels at Parrish Elementary during the 2019-20 school year.  She has also been a volunteer at T.R. Simmons Elementary School to teach STEM concepts.

She said STEM teachings will be essential in the years to come so future generations will be prepared to fill an increase of jobs in our area that require two-year degrees and an in-depth knowledge of STEM education.
  

Many schools in Walker County are seeking STEM certification, with some incorporating STEAM concepts that incorporate teachings in the arts. 

According to the AdvancED website, "AdvancED STEM Certification is a mark of distinction and excellence that provides institutions and programs within institutions a research-based framework and criteria for awareness, continuous improvement and assessment of the quality, rigor and substance of their STEM educational program."