Acknowledging its leadership in mathematics and technology education, Miami-Dade district officials recently awarded a Hialeah Gardens school Gold STEM designation.
This is the first year Miami-Dade County Public Schools is providing the designation. Though several received STEM honors, Hialeah Gardens is the only middle school to receive the Gold level. An official recognition ceremony is scheduled for next month.
STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics) and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) programs are designed to integrate and promote those disciplines in classrooms.
This is especially important in an era when most of the available jobs are increasingly in science and technology sectors, said Principal Maritza Jimenez.
According to the STEAM and STEM school designation program, Miami-Dade County Public Schools created the program as an extra incentive for schools to integrate those disciplines into their curriculum.
In a statement, district officials said that preparing students in these fields “will ensure that our community has the next generation of inventors, explorers, innovators, artists and leaders.”
While the application process daunted the school’s administration because of the amount of paperwork, at least they had an advantage.
“Since we were already doing most of the things that were required, it was just a matter of putting it together on paper for the application,” said Niurka Davis, an assistant principal at the school.
One of the program’s criteria is community partnerships. The middle school has been collaborating for years with Hialeah Gardens High School, which is on the opposite side of the campus.
Jimenez said robotics teachers from the middle and high schools work closely together. The same goes for the students.
“Some of the high school robotics students come to mentor our little ones,” she said.
She added that other high schoolers complete community service hours by helping the middle schoolers in the agricultural science class.
Davis said students, teachers and administrators are all incredibly proud of the accomplishment.
“[The teachers] deserve it. They work hard and sometimes they don’t get the recognition they deserve so this is something that they can look at and say: ‘We did it.’ And it’s something that they all played a part in,” she said.
District officials said the middle school’s accomplishment will be widely promoted on its website and throughout the community.
“Hialeah Gardens Middle School has gone two steps above with STEM competitions, professional development, partnerships, equity and accountability, of such high caliber that they earned recognition at the Gold level,” the district said in an official statement.
In total, 77 schools applied, of which 28 received a Bronze designation and 25 received a Silver designation.
An elementary school and high school in the district also received the Gold designation: Sunset Elementary, near the University of Miami, and Terra Environmental Research Institute in Kendall.
Applications for the 2016-2017 school year STEAM and STEM designations are currently open, and the administration at Hialeah Gardens Middle School did not miss a moment in starting theirs.
“We’re applying right now for next year, for the STEAM designation. That one includes the arts. We already got the Gold in STEM, and now we’re going for the Gold in STEAM. It’s like the Olympics,” Jimenez said.