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Williams School District renews focus on science and technology
Along with new Common Core state standards in math and reading, Arizona school districts required to strengthen science offerings

Williams High School teacher Larry Gutshall works with Williams-Elementary Middle school students at the first STEM night Oct. 4. Clara Beard/WGCN

Williams High School teacher Larry Gutshall works with Williams-Elementary Middle school students at the first STEM night Oct. 4. Clara Beard/WGCN

WILLIAMS, Ariz. - Things are taking a turn toward science and technology at the Williams School District.

"Schools have been mandated to adopt common core standards, which are national standards," Williams District Superintendent Rachel Savage said. "Currently we are mandated to adopt national standards in math and reading. Science is coming next and then it will just keep coming down the pipeline. The national standards are our overall competitiveness with regard to education and where we stand in the world,"

Along with the mandate to implement common core standards school districts are required to add STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) curriculum.

There are four levels: exploratory, introductory, partial immersion and full immersion. The goal is for the district to work toward full immersion, meaning everything taught should be "rich in STEM."

"We're just getting started," Savage said. "It takes training, it takes personal development and it takes resources to be able to do more with this."

Savage went on to say the district has a long-term goal to be fully immersed in STEM, teaching the common core standards and helping students prepare for college and the workplace.

Recently, the district hosted their first family STEM night Oct. 4 in an attempt to involve families and to get kids to see the importance of learning the STEM curriculum. The event was made possible by an Arizona Parent's Commission grant, awarded to encourage parents and kids to get involved in educational opportunities both in and outside of the classroom.

"This was the first time we've done this, but we do the invention convention and now we are just trying to build up our STEM opportunities for our students and training opportunities for our teachers," Savage said.

The next STEM learning opportunity for students is a two-day flight camp scheduled for January, also payed for by the Arizona Parent's Commission grant.

"We want to grow and enrich our offerings in technology we do pretty well for a small district, but we always want to do more of course," Savage said. "Math is certainly an academic goal for us. We want to improve in the classroom on state assessments, and prep assessments like the ACT and the SAT."

In the elementary school, engineering is beginning to bloom in the classroom. Increasing the amount of exposure students get in these subjects is dependent on lesson planning and teachers' professional development, all in the works to ensure the progression of the statewide mandate.

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