Education is a living process that changes over time and one Aiken County middle school is taking a new approach.
Students at Jackson Middle School in Jackson are part of a recently transformed take on education that the school says focuses on critical thinking and approaching problems with an engineering mind-set. The vision of the school’s faculty caught the attention of Savannah River Nuclear Solutions, which recently funded the school’s purchase of a new semester-long class called Science and Technology.
Jackson Middle School is using a tool called Project Lead the Way that aims to improve student comprehension and retention. According to a release from SRNS, the management and operations contract company at Savannah River Site, the funding paid for teacher registration, professional development, and the materials and software to make the Science and Technology class a reality.
“Jackson Middle School has purchased the Science and Technology class, funded by Savannah River Nuclear Solutions (SRNS),” Kishni Neville, STEM Coordinator said in the release. “Using the materials and information provided through this class, our seventh and eighth graders explore principles of applied chemistry, nanotechnology and physics.”
She said the Engineering Design Process, a relatively new academic philosophy at Jackson Middle, is an important element of nearly all their instruction.
“We’re teaching our students how to evaluate, process and learn as an engineer would in the real world when faced with a challenge or a need to understand and implement a new concept,” Neville said.
As an introduction to the class, students build robotic arms and create blueprints for innovative new homes. Neville said the material gets more difficult as the class continues because teachers want the students to learn how to “walk before they run.”
Neville said, “This gives them the terminology and science-based principles needed to build a foundation used to ensure the success of the class for each student.”
SRNS has thus far donated about $4,000 in support of Jackson Middle School. The organization also donates to other area educational activities through Aiken County’s Public Education partners and its Innovative teaching Mini Grants. The Mini Grants program started in 2009 and has awarded over $500,000 total to teachers in the Augusta area.
The program awards cash grants of $500, $750, and $1,000 to teachers implementing innovative ideas in elementary and middle school math and science curricula. The annual program is open to teachers in Aiken, Allendale, Bamberg, Barnwell, and Edgefield counties in South Carolina and Columbia and Richmond counties in Georgia.
Reach Thomas Gardiner at (706) 823-3339 or Thomas.firstname.lastname@example.org.