STEM Certification Executive Summary
Fulton Science Academy Private School dedicates itself to serving and supporting the needs of its unique population of advanced and gifted students. Through the collaborative partnership of administration, faculty, parents, and students, we have created a nurturing, inclusive, and safe environment that allows continuous academic progression, personal discovery, and shapes positive characters from the moment of enrollment.
In 2012, FSAPS opened with a little over one hundred students and has evolved into the fastest growing private school in Georgia. In 2016, we were the Technology Association of Georgia’s STEM Education Award recipient and were recently voted the Best Private School in our area. Notably, FSAPS ranks in the 99th percentile among other schools in the nation across 95% of all grades and subjects, as measured by the nationally normed NWEA MAP assessment. As further confirmation of our academic program’s success, Fulton Science Academy’s students and teams have repeatedly represented Georgia at the state, national, and international levels in the areas of math, science, robotics, technological innovation, history, global relations, foreign language, and many other competitions. Last year, FSAPS students represented Georgia in seven national and international competitions including Science Olympiad, Math Counts, Model United Nations, FLL Robotics, National History Bowl, Chess, and Destination Imagination. We have achieved 21st place in the National Science Olympiad Competition and CTRL+ALT+DELETE, an all-female student academic team, was Georgia’s first robotics team to compete at an international level. Further, we have won first place in the Write It Do It event of the National Science Olympiad Competition for two years in a row. While we have continually built on the academic excellence demonstrated by our students and program, what we are the most proud of is that we have fostered and built a collaborative, supportive, and charitable community that works together to instill good character qualities and a commitment to service in our students.
FSAPS in addition to its daily core classes of math, science, social studies, reading, language arts, and foreign language, provides classes in physical education, art, music, robotics/engineering (PLTW), and computer classes for grades Pre-K though 8th on a weekly basis. Also, the school boasts extra-curricular athletic and arts programs, as well as, provides a variety of after-school clubs and academic teams that allow our students the opportunity to explore, expand, and more fully develop their own personal interests and pursuits. Although STEM education doesn’t include arts and foreign language, we have found that they are complimentary enhancements to STEM subjects as they teach students skills that are necessary in STEM fields, such as learning a topic that is not necessarily intuitive, enhancing communication skills, giving students the platform to develop confidence in expressing themselves in unique ways, and having students produce bodies of work without a prescriptive script fosters creativity. Fulton Science Academy not only provides our students with a firm academic foundation in STEM subjects and other supplemental skills, but we support them in becoming well-rounded, healthy, and positive individuals that possess good character qualities and a love of learning.
A vital part of our program is to assist students in acquiring and fully developing skills to utilize the knowledge and academic standards that they have been taught. One facet of our program is learning to work both independently and collaboratively to find answers to complex questions and/or solutions to identified problems through research, data collection, observation, and problem solving. This, also, encompasses instilling the skills and/or qualities of self-motivation, communication, collaboration, time management, responsibility, and creativity.
To that end, we are constantly re-evaluating our programs based on our data, observations, student and community feedback, and current student body needs. Our tools, systems, methods, and program as a whole evolves based on the results of our evaluative process, so that we stay engaged in a constant cycle of improvement. For example, our STEAM Enrichment Program began second semester of last year and we are now in our third version. As with all our programs this one began by identifying an area where our students needed to improve or develop a skill set that was missing for them to be their most successful, especially in STEM disciplines. In this instance, the goal was for students to cultivate 21st century skills, learn how to be a valuable team member, acquire the abilities necessary for successful project development, and become effective communicators. Beyond a strong academic foundation, these are the skills that executives and business leaders in STEM fields have identified to be the most lacking in recent college graduates and we have taken steps to address that area of opportunity before our students get to the post-secondary environment. As we develop the program, we have discovered that it needs to look very different for different age groups. Therefore, the structures and our dissemination methods are in a state of continuous evolution at this point in time. We initially rolled the program out to all students in the same format and under the same name, but we have since rolled it back in elementary and changed it to be hands-on STEM activities one period per week in order for students to start the process of working together as a team and developing collaborative skills. In second grade, the teachers call this dedicated time period STEM Challenge Activities. In essence, we learned that students needed to develop a certain level of maturity and social skills before they could successfully engage in the program as it was originally laid out. For high school students, they found the original program implementation stressful and challenging. It was difficult for them to devote so much time to an additional enrichment project period when they had so many rigorous course level projects, already dedicated significant time to STEM academic teams, and needed more preparation time for college tests and applications. As a result, we changed the program for high school students to allow for more STEM mentorship opportunities, college preparation studies, and developed STEM career paths that would enable them to focus on a more clearly defined career study path, as well as, receive additional graduation certificates upon completion. These paths are engineering, allied health, computer science, and media/theatre technology. In the future, as the high school enrollment increases, additional paths will be added based on student interest. The target is still the same, but how we accomplish the goal has been altered for different ages and school bands to better meet their needs.
Two identified areas of opportunity that will have a significant impact on improving our students learning experiences are the creation of the FSAPS STEM Literacy Profile and to continue the creation and building of our own bank of FSAPS Lesson Plans and STEAM Units in Atlas Rubicon. We are in the initial stages of discussing the development of a FSAPS STEM Literacy Profile for each grade. The creation of this profile is especially important to our school, because for our gifted and advanced students the concepts and standards that are typically taught at different grade/age levels under traditional educational models do not necessarily align with the pace and depth at which we teach concepts to our students. In other words, we usually introduce or students have mastered concepts well before what is traditionally expected, so we need a different profile. This compliments the other identified area of opportunity, building our own collaborative lesson plans, STEAM Units, and performance assessments that align with our own FSAPS STEM Literacy Profile. Although our students grasp educational concepts faster and at a more rigorous level than their age related peers in other educational environments, differentiation is still necessary based on student maturity, retention pace, and the manner in which individual students learn most effectively. There is not a perfect curriculum to meet our students needs in any given subject, but especially in math, science, robotics, and computer science. Therefore, we are building our own lessons and units that incorporate curriculums and activities from many sources to find a balance that better meets our students’ abilities and differentiation needs.
Our school’s extra-curricular, elective, and focused study opportunities are all part of our circular approach to learning. Teach academic standards and skills, practice the skills, demonstrate the ability to utilize the gained knowledge and abilities in a meaningful way, develop an interest for a given area of study, and instill a desire within that student to know more, which completes the circle. Just as our students grow, learn, and develop, Fulton Science Academy Private School continually changes, evolves, and improves its programs to better meet the needs of both our students and the community as a whole.