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ASD seeks to expand science curriculum

Press Argus Courier - 3/13/2017

Alma School District officials are working to expand science curriculum throughout all grade levels with classes and hands-on programs.

Nancy Rhodes, district math specialist, spoke to Alma School Board members Thursday night about the implementation of Project Lead the Way throughout the grade levels.

Project Lead the Way develops STEM - science, technology, engineering and math - curriculum for elementary, middle and high schools.

"The way the program is designed, the beginning piece of every activity has a floor in which every kid can get engaged," Rhodes said. "This is for every single kid - that's why it's so powerful."

Through the program, STEM is integrated with literacy and social skill. Students are guided in discovering rather than being told the answer, Rhodes said.

"We need to change that culture so that kids realize, if I don't succeed I just try again," Rhodes said. "Failing is not failure."

Superintendent David Woolly said students collaborate to solve "real world problems" with activities that encourage problem-based learning.

Alma started STEM programs at its high school in 2014 with a robotics club, then added STEM courses in 2015 and the current school year.

This year the program was expanded to the district's primary and intermediate schools which house grades kindergarten through fifth, and will expand to the middle school next year, Rhodes said.

Alma students have been excelling in science for several years.

At the 2017 Northwest Arkansas Regional Science and Engineering Fair, which included about 30 schools large and small from surrounding counties, Alma received the top prize, Rhodes said. Students taking part received 82 awards overall, excluding industry awards, she said.

This was not unusual for Alma, who Superintendent David Woolly said "dominates" at the science fair each year.

Also during the school board meeting Thursday, long-time school board member Nancy Hawkins announced her resignation. Hawkins was first elected to the board in September 2000.

Hawkins resigned after nearly 17 years on the board because of declining physical health, she said. She continues to suffer from complications from a hospital stay that resulted in the loss of her legs below the knees and will need additional surgeries that require an extensive recovery time, she said.

Hawkins expressed sadness over her decision.

"I love Alma; this has been a great journey I've been on with you guys," Hawkins told her fellow board members. "I don't want to go."

Woolly called Hawkins contributions to the school board "immeasurable."

Board members will take up the appointment of a new board member at their next regularly scheduled meeting.


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