Seven schools in the Fort Wayne Community Schools district will have a new STEM or STEAM emphasis in the future.
The FWCS board of school trustees voted Monday night to approve a $1.62 million contract with Discovery Education of Silver Spring, Md., for educational resources and assistance with implementing the new curriculum at the schools.
The board meeting took place at Grile Administrative Center, 1200 S. Clinton St.
The change will affect two groups of schools:
• Use of a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) approach at Irwin Elementary School and two schools its students feed into, Portage Middle School and Wayne High School.
• Use of a STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math) emphasis at Whitney Young Early Childhood Center and Weisser Park Elementary and the schools they feed into, Memorial Park Middle School and South Side High School. The schools in this group are part of FWCS’ fine arts magnet school program.
Planning for the changes would start at the schools in fall 2018, said Get Nichols, FWCS’ assistant superintendent for elementary. The new emphasis would be rolled out over a four-year period and would involve all academic subject areas.
In the future, FWCS officials plan to meet to talk about the Discovery Education plan with teachers at the seven affected schools and the parents of students who attend those schools, FWCS Superintendent Wendy Robinson told board members.
As part of the contract with FWCS, Discovery Education will provide digital textbooks, multimedia content for use with instruction and professional training for teachers and staff. Discovery Education is affiliated with the Discovery Channel cable television network.
FWCS administrators originally planned to start implementing the program at Irwin this year and expand it to other schools in the future. In August, the school board approved a $266,000 contract with Discovery Education to bring its STEM approach to Irwin.
“As we got into it, what we decided to do is work on it simultaneously,” Krista Stockman, FWCS public information officer, said of implementing the Discovery Education program at all seven schools.
The August contract approval will pay for implementing the program at Irwin, and the $1.62 million contract approved Monday night will pay for bringing it to the six other schools, Nichols said.
Implementing the STEM and STEAM programs at the seven schools will start after FWCS starts work this years on enhancing language arts and math education in its schools, Robinson told school board members at the meeting.
Use of the Discovery Education program will make sure FWCS schools are up-to-date, Stockman said.
Discovery Education’s services are used in half of U.S. kindergarten-grade 12 classrooms and in more than 50 countries worldwide, the company said on its website, www.discoveryeducation.com.
FWCS also wants to bring its fine arts programs into the 21st century, Nichols said of implementing the STEAM approach at its fine arts magnet schools. Today, she added, science, technology and math are used more than ever before in the fine arts, including in musical and theatrical performances and graphic art and design.
Adopting the Discovery Education program meshes with FWCS’ goals of doing what is best for students and preparing students to fulfill needs in the community, Nichols and Stockman said.
Discovery Education also works with a school district to design the program to meet the each district’s needs, Nichols said at the board meeting.
“It’s not a cookie-cutter program,” she noted.
FWCS eventually plans to implement inquiry-based and project-based learning at all of its schools, Nichols said.
That approach to learning helps children develop critical-thinking and problem-solving skills, Stockman said.
FWCS already uses inquiry- and project-based learning in the New Tech program at Towles Intermediate School, New Tech Academy at Wayne High School, biomedical program at Snider High School and engineering program at Northrop High School.
For more about Fort Wayne Community Schools, go to www.fortwayneschools.org.