Rediscovering Our Roots of STEM

Surprise, AZ | Submitted by Shelley Isai

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Canyon Ridge was founded six years ago as the district concept school for math and science.   Turnover in administration and teachers took the focus off this process until the last two years.  Last year we worked as a community to re-define our vision and mission.  Our vision to “Inspire the Innovators of Tomorrow” was the product of collaboration with staff, students and parents.  These same groups defined our mission as:  Preparing our students for the 21st Century through structured inquiry and real world problem solving. By connecting the challenging academic content of Science, Math, and Engineering, supported by transforming uses of technology, we are preparing the generation of tomorrow.  From this point we made a video of what we envisioned this looking like on a daily basis.

Since the re-vetting of our vision and mission much has happened for Canyon.  This year we are an APS/ NAU STEM focus school.  We have two Arizona Science Teacher Mentor Teachers.  We are one of fourteen finalists for the Helios/ Arizona Science Foundation STEM Grant.  In addition, we have opened a DEPCO Engineering Lab in conjunction with the district CTE program.  Teachers are actively working to design STEM based lessons aligned to the Common Core and district curriculum map.  Next year, students on Canyon’s Ridge’s campus will work with Arizona Department of Transportation on real life design and investigation.

However, our vision extends beyond the school day.  Canyon has expanded our Lego Robotics Program with students placing at the State level.  This year we have started a Rocket Club and entered the Science Olympiad.  Students also come in on weekends and tend our Outdoor Classroom.

Our Site Council and PTA have also helped our vision become reality. These groups have aligned their funds to support STEM based initiatives and purchase of technology. PTA has organized volunteers in the classrooms. In addition, community partners like AAUW are helping with our STEM Night and Science Olympiad.

Having a STEM school is about more than having a label. It is about students having the opportunities to roll up their sleeves and get dirty with experiments, technology and testing hypothesis. It is about continual educating of teachers for best classroom practice integrating traditional singular disciplines into a meta-discipline. Creating a STEM school is a journey, and for Canyon Ridge the journey has been the reward for the entire community. Although we have not crossed the finish line, nor do we know if we ever will, we are committed to innovation and giving all students access to high levels of learning.

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