AAPS Families Eager for K-8 STEAM School at Northside

Parents packed into Northside for the first informational meeting about the new program


Superintendent Dr. Swift answers questions about the new STEAM school at Northside on March 6, 2014.
Superintendent Dr. Swift answers questions about the new STEAM school at Northside on March 6, 2014.

By Tara Cavanaugh

March 7, 2014

It was clear on Thursday night that next year’s new K-8 STEAM school at Northside had garnered plenty of interest.

The 240 seats that filled Northside’s multipurpose room were full. Parents also stood against the walls and sat squished together at lunch tables in the back of the room.

AAPS Superintendent Dr. Jeanice Swift and district administrators laid out preliminary plans for the K-8 STEAM program that is opening at Northside for the 2014-2015 school year.

Administrators also promised future meetings, including one the first week in April, during which they will introduce the new K-8 STEAM principal to the community.

“We will be out here on repeated occasions between now and the middle of June to make sure all of your questions are answered and that you have the information you need,” Dr. Swift said.

At the meeting parents viewed a presentation about the STEAM school, available here in a PDF , watched a video (below) featuring a program the district is using as inspiration and asked questions. (Northside STEAM FAQ here)

STEAM stands for science, technology, engineering, arts and math.

“STEAM is more than the sum of its parts,” said Superintendent Dr. Swift. “It’s really about the way students learn. Working collaboratively, thinking critically. We don’t know the jobs they’ll have, but we do know some of the skills and competencies they will need to develop.

“Innovating is what this school will be about.”

“The jobs we have today are not the jobs our students will have tomorrow,” said Director of Instructional Technology Merri Lynn Colligan. “We want to give them those foundational skills to help propel themselves where they need to be in the future.”

The new school will be one of the few K-8 STEAM schools in the state, Dr. Swift added. “It is fairly unique to have a K-8 elementary school, while 9-12 is fairly common.”

A key theme of the night was collaboration: Students will learn to collaborate with one another. Teachers will collaborate in the form of co-teaching lessons. And local businesses will partner with the school in creating innovative curriculum.

“We’re going to be working with the University of Michigan and our local businesses,” said Executive Director of Elementary Education Dawn Linden. “They will become our partners in guiding those students in thinking about real world problems.”

“We’re the only district in the country to have a partnership with Toyota around STEAM education,” Dr. Swift added. (Toyota sent ten AAPS teachers and staff to Singapore last summer to learn about STEAM education.) “Thanks to Toyota and our Tech Bond, those efforts are underway in all buildings. However, this school will be built on that concept.”

Based on a student’s status, there are three kinds of applications for the STEAM school:

  1. For students who live within the Northside area and will be in grades K-6 next year: Interest form
  2. Students who live within the district and want to transfer to Northside: Application
  3. Schools of Choice Students who live out of the district, in Washtenaw County, and want to transfer to Northside: Schools of Choice Application

Students in the Northside area will be given first priority. Students who live within the district and want to transfer to Northside will be given second priority, and Schools of Choice students will be given third priority.

One member of the audience asked about funding the school and was concerned that the PTO will need to fund many of its initiatives.

“We are committed to this program,” Dr. Swift replied. “We have some pretty high level commitments from this community, and the board has expressed its commitment with its 7-0 vote in favor of it.”

Rec&Ed Executive Director Jenna Bacolor also shared updates about Rec&Ed’s presence at Northside next school year.

Rec&Ed will continue to offer after-school childcare and next year it will also include sixth graders.

Rec&Ed has also incorporated STEAM activities into its programs, such as its First Steps program for ages 0-5. A new summer camp called River Rover, created with the Hands On Museum, will teach kids how to build rovers that work underwater. The kids will test water and learn about river animals along the Huron River.

Summer camp options are already available at the Rec&Ed’s Virtual Summer Camps fair.

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