The Indiana Department of Education has identified Maple Crest Middle School as a STEM certified school.

After surveying parents and learning they were interested in project-based learning, the school began focusing on STEM, which stands for science, technology, engineering and math. The classes are developed to tie together, so students are thinking about things in different ways.

“We want to go back to the four Cs,” said STEM coordinator Aaron Hyman. “We call them communication, collaboration, critical thinking and creativity.”

Three years ago, the school received a grant from Purdue University to focus on professional development and improving its STEM practices.

As part of the professional development, 15 teachers are interning this summer at places such as Chrysler and the Kokomo Police Department. These teachers are bringing back practical knowledge of STEM jobs students might be interested in once they graduate high school or college.

The certification is thanks to two important factors, Principal Tom Hughes said: the teachers and the students. Both groups have worked hard to make Maple Crest a successful STEM school. The staff is working to make sure the courses are relevant and meaningful, and the students are working hard themselves. In fact, when the IDOE visited earlier this year, the students gave the tour of the school, Hughes said.

“First and foremost, this is a pat on the back for our staff,” Hughes said. “It will hopefully serve to draw students from Howard County. More than just our name, we now have accreditation and recognition from the IDOE.”

The school demonstrates its STEM curriculum in a few ways. They host an annual STEM career fair, inviting community members who work in STEM fields to visit and talk about their jobs. Students have also worked with Moody Cycle to create a 3D printed bicycle part.

The certification should encourage students in Howard County to attend Maple Crest, Hughes said.

The certification doesn’t change the way the school operates but recognizes its work in STEM programs. However, it does help the school look to the future, KSC Assistant Superintendent Mike Sargent said. In five years, the certification board will return to make sure Maple Crest is continuing to improve. If it is, it will be recertified.

Hughes, who used to be the school’s vice principal, was approved as the new principal by the school board Monday night.

Education Reporter Caele Pemberton can be reached at 765-454-8587, by email at caele.pemberton@kokomotribune or on Twitter @CaelePemberton

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