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Hands-on STREAM Missions help boost science scores

STAAR pass rate for fifth graders in San Diego, TX, shoots up 23 percent

Published August 29, 2018
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Who says homework isn’t effective?

Amanda Morgan, the STEM coordinator for San Diego (TX) ISD, did her homework researching the Pitsco Education STREAM Missions, ensuring that the hands-on, standards-based content would apply the concepts fifth graders were learning in science.

“I took our year-at-a-glance document, which is our scope and sequence, and aligned the Missions with what the students were studying in the classroom,” said Morgan. “This led to the lab being an extension of the classroom learning as opposed to a stand-alone curriculum.”

A full year of STREAM Missions exploration and discovery in topics such as ecosystems, energy, and weather proved to be the perfect academic boost to core science instruction at Collins-Parr Elementary School during the 2017-18 school year. The rate of fifth graders passing the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) science test shot up 23 percent over the previous year to 66 percent.

The significant improvement in science was particularly noticeable. “Scores in most other areas stayed about the same as the previous year,” Morgan said. “Science is the only area which demonstrated significant growth.”

Two Pitsco STEM labs – STREAM Missions for Grades 3-5 and STEM Units for Grades K-2 – were the cornerstone additions made possible through a four-year, $5 million Texas Title I Priority Schools (TTIPS) grant awarded in 2016. The district also added a family STEM night, STEM Saturdays, and STEM camps that utilize Pitsco materials. The experiential STEM curriculum helps students develop a foundation of lifelong, transferable 21st-century skills such as critical thinking, collaboration, career exploration, and problem-solving.

“We have seen the excitement from students and parents,” Morgan said. “We will be increasing our STEM presence in our school as well as at the junior high school and high school.”

The STEM success didn’t stop when school let out in early June. The district hosted 21 STEM summer camps for elementary school students at all ability levels. “While our STEM camps have attracted our higher-performing students,” Morgan said, “we have also seen many of our at-risk students enjoy camps.”

Superintendent Dr. Samuel Bueno was already a believer in the Pitsco labs before the stellar test results arrived in June. “I have not walked into the STEM lab, not once, where the kids aren’t just completely immersed and operating at a high level of engagement. . . . There’s an authentic play going on and they’re learning. There’s a lot of dialogue.”

“When I saw it, it took me about 20 seconds to buy in. I understood it. It was hands-on science, it was high-tech, it was student responsibility. It was all the skills that we’ve talked about teaching but traditional labs will not allow.”

– Pat Taylor, headmaster, Jackson Academy, Jackson, Mississippi

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