“I’m excited about being a platinum school,” Gillette said. “The Gold designation was good for five years, but our school community wanted to go ahead and work on the platinum level.”
The goal of STEM education is to prepare students for future careers in science, technology, engineering, and math. To reach the platinum level, Willow Elementary had to work together to reach a score of over 100 points on the STEM recognition application.
The Utah STEM Action Center, a business and education partnership, was created to promote STEM education. The STEM Action Center, working with the Utah State Board of Education, administers the STEM recognition program for schools.
The application has a total of 37 criteria, divided into 10 categories, with three points possible for each individual criteria, for a maximum of 111 points. There are four levels of STEM designation: bronze, silver, gold and platinum. Bronze level is for schools with 70-80 points, silver 81-90 points, gold 91-99 points, and platinum 100 points and over.
“The area we want to focus on to improve our score was community involvement,” Gillette said.
Willow Elementary faculty collaborated with the school’s PTA to substitute the school’s annual carnival with a STEM Fest. The year-long effort to achieve platinum status was a joint effort that involved teachers, administrators, staff, parents, businesses, and other community members, according to Gillette.
The STEM theme permeated everything that Willow Elementary School did this year.
“We had a fundraiser,” Gillette said. “I told the students that if they reached our fundraising goal, they could throw a pie in my face. But it wasn’t going to be just the usual throw a pie with your hand. They had to design and build a pie throwing machine.”
The school reached out to local businesses to bring guest speakers into classrooms that talked about STEM related careers. Working with the school’s PTA, Willow Elementary substituted its traditional carnival with a STEM Fest. Every grade was involved with a STEM related, hands-on activity related to their CORE curriculum for all the students and parents that participated in the STEM Fest, according to Gillette.
“Reaching for the platinum level was a lot of fun,” said Gillette. “We all worked on it together.”
Written by Tim Gillie, Tooele Transcript Bulletin