Administrators and faculty at Jasper Jr. High School haven't looked back since incorporating STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) lessons into everyday classroom instruction a few years ago.
"STEM is our recipe, and we have found that it works, and we've seen improvement year after year and day after day," Jasper Jr. High Principal Lutis Moore told members of the Jasper City Board of Education at a meeting on Monday.
Prior to Moore presenting the school's continuous improvement plan report to board members, the Jasper Jr. High family was recognized for becoming a Cognia Internationally Certified STEM School in December.
Jasper Jr. High is one of only two schools in the county to have earned the prestigious certification that acknowledges the school's STEM culture can serve as a model for other schools to follow.
A lot of work led up to the school being STEM certified, and Moore said the momentum to improve hasn't stopped.
The school's students continue to use the Viking Engineering Design Process (VEDP), where they are ultimately tasked with problem-solving through STEM activities. The VEDP is a critical component of the school's continuous improvement goal of encouraging student leaders through engagement.
"It gives our students a new way of thinking critically and deeper to help them solve problems," Moore said of STEM.
School leaders are also focused on improving learning capacity and strengthening the resources available to students. Again, both goals are STEM driven.
Moore said STEM challenges students to focus, which, in turn, results in better performance in the classroom. For example, he said school discipline has been down since incorporating STEM activities, as well as a "house" system, which essentially splits students and teachers into groups or support teams.
Assessment scores have also improved at the school and the overall state report card grade for Jasper Jr. High also jumped recently from an 83 to an 88.
"There's a lot of things going on right now that gets our students' attention, but this is one of the things we think will keep our students' attention in school," Moore said of STEM. "Our STEM focus is for our students to understand the four C's — communication, critical thinking, collaboration and creativity."
STEM teachings are also occurring outside the classroom. Moore said many Birmingham businesses have offered for students to tour facilities. The exposure will also get the seventh- and eighth-grade students to think about possible career options.
"We've accomplished a lot. Our students are to be recognized for their accomplishments," Moore said in closing. "We're poised to do even better. I brag on the team (school faculty and staff) about what they're doing and how they're doing it."