Brownsville adds STEM

Brownsville Elementary is about to become the first STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) school in the Central Kitsap School District starting next year.

Brownsville Elementary is about to become the first STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) school in the Central Kitsap School District starting next year.

Starting next year, students will see an increase in the use of technology and math skills, said Brownsville Elementary Principal Toby Tebo.

“We see society as everybody’s on their phone. It’s kind of detaching,” he said. “(Yet) it can be a unifying tool to get them to think. It’s where common core is going, making a claim and backing it up with evidence.”

Tebo said it is his hope that “toys” like tablets will turn into “tools” for learning experiences.

Students will start working with Android tablets and Chromebooks in the next year with more implementation to follow in the coming years. Tebo hopes to see a one-to-one ratio for the technology tools for students in the future.

“If it doesn’t add value, it’s  just a shiny toy,” he said.

The idea of school of choice was a vision of former interim CKSD Superintendent Hazel Bauman who thought parents, staff and students should have an option of being involved in an educational experience that might have a particular theme tied to it such as STEM.

For Tebo’s school, he knew it would be STEM since his students had always excelled in math, and his staff was interested in the prospect, he said.

Although Tebo was hesitant at first to dive into STEM as an option, the feedback was overwhelming, and Tebo thought it best to go ahead with the idea.

“Our staff, they have a high capacity for new stuff,” said Tebo. “They kind of want to be on the cutting edge. They’re always wanting to do more. This was something that I wanted to put on the back burner because I didn’t know about the capacity. And they’re like ‘let’s do this.’”

After meeting with nearly 20 teachers, Tebo and his team developed a proposal via Google Docs to present the idea to the school board. His presentation stated that 90 percent of his staff spent two hours collaboratively to draft the presentation for the school board.

On June 20, board members voted to approve a STEM budget for the 2014-2015 school year after hearing Tebo’s presentation.

Unanimously, the school board voted to approve the expenses being pulled from the district’s technology budget to provide up to 90 laptops and three carts along with a number of tablets.

An additional $10,000 will also be provided for staff training during the 2014-2015 year. Staff will continue to apply for additional funding from the District DoDEA STEM grant to support after-school activities as well, according to CKSD documents.

The change to implement STEM into schools comes at a time when STEM jobs have been found difficult to fill.

A recent Brookings Institution study shows that STEM positions are taking longer to fill than other job openings in other fields.

However, it is the hope of Tebo and his staff that students will find their way and use technology to their advantage, especially in the future.

“Kids get technology as a toy, and I want them to be able to use it as a tool,” he said. “The major goal is to get them to communicate and collaborate more.”

Students in K-6 who attend other schools and have an interest in transferring to a STEM-focused school may do so, CKSD Public Affairs Spokesman David Beil said.

The process is the same as it is for a normal school transfer, Beil noted.

For more information on school transfers, contact the Central Kitsap School District at 360-662-1610.