6:30am

Mon August 12, 2013
Education

No Ivory Tower, Students At Elite Public School Will Get Their Hands Dirty

Math was the topic of a two-week summer camp, taught by Michael Sheetz, for incoming freshmen in Fayette County's new STEAM Academy, opening this week.
Math was the topic of a two-week summer camp, taught by Michael Sheetz, for incoming freshmen in Fayette County's new STEAM Academy, opening this week.
Credit Lexington Herald Leader

A new kind of school opens this week in Fayette County. Instead of a standard high school designed to serve the average student, the 150 Freshmen attending this school will focus on math, science and technology.

Fayette County’s STEAM Academy opens its doors to students at a rejuvenated downtown school once home to Johnson Elementary.   STEAM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math. The new STEAM Academy is a collaboration between Fayette County Public Schools and the University of Kentucky.  In addition to UK educators, community leaders will also participate in classroom activities.  Director Tina Stevenson says the school is no “ivory tower.”

“Where we actually solve problems that are within our community here and really making a difference for the folks in this community and our students having that curriculum that says, ‘oh I understand now why I need algebra, I understand why I need this science class or this biology class because it’s real life and it’s authentic,” said Stevenson.

Stevenson says students will have direct experience with real world issues. For example, they may cultivate a community garden and design green housing. She says job-one for this diverse group of freshmen is the creation of a unique culture for their school.

“We intentionally did not develop a logo a school mascot or colors because we want our students to have a voice in that area. The students will help us with our rules, our norms for the building. What it will look like to be a steam academy student and set those expectations,” added Stevenson.

In 2015, the STEAM Academy is expected to move into the former Winn Dixie site off Lexington’s Virginia Avenue. It’s a large structure which will be designed, in part, by students.

“As I said to the students, when it’s all said and done and they have children one day, that they’ll be able to drive by and say to their kids, you know, I was the first class at STEAM Academy and I helped to design that school,” explained Stevenson.

Over 400 students submitted applications for the Academy, with the first class selected through a lottery.  Stevenson says the group is diverse, both ethnically and academically.  Over the next four years, the STEAM Academy will grow to some 600 students.