On April 18, 2017, Henderson Mill Elementary School was formally recognized by the State of Georgia as the first STEAM-Certified School in the State of Georgia. This ceremony followed a March 15th visit by representatives from the Georgia Department of Education, where they engaged with our students, teachers, STEAM leadership, parents, and business partners in an effort to determine whether the school met the criteria to become STEAM certified. As true integration was clear to all of the observers, through their experience in the classrooms, the application, and their discussion with our stakeholders, the representatives from the DOE informed our leadership team that Henderson Mill would be the first STEAM-certified school in the State of Georgia.
The formal ceremony to follow incorporated a Pure Imagination theme pulling from the song from the famed children’s movie Willy Wonka and Chocolate Factory based upon the children’s novel by Raold Dahl, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Students from across the school presented their current PBL work to guests from the DOE, the district office, and our parent and business communities. Both the State Superintendent, Richard Woods, and Dekalb’s Superintendent, Dr. R. Stephen Green, addressed the crowd of children and adults as the State formally presented the first STEAM banner to our principal, Mr. Mitch Green as the representative of the faculty and staff and our community. Mr. Green symbolically handed the banner off to our students in a demonstration of the diligence and commitment to the vision that was present in all students and teachers. As the DOE visitors noted, STEAM is the culture of Henderson Mill.
Our journey to STEAM began in 2010 as the leadership began to acquire and implement key components of our then STEM program. On October 31, 2012, Henderson Mill Elementary School was presented with our official STEM certified. Dr. Michael Buck, Chief Academic Officer for the Georgia Department of Education, led the dedication to the students, faulty, community members, and business partners. This was the culminating event for a team effort that began well over a year prior to transform Henderson Mill Elementary School, a traditional PreK-5th grade school, into a STEM-focused school.
The STEAM program at Henderson Mill Elementary prioritizes a cross-curricular, critical thinking approach to incorporate STEAM into all content areas. Through Project-based Learning, our students take on real-world challenges with a social action component, applying grade level skills to address the problem locally. We also offer the students opportunities to participate in unique programs such as Engineering is Elementary, Small Fry to Go, a school-wide garden, LEGO Build to Express, Aquaponics, and video production. In addition, the school has many influential business partners to help support the STEM program. Among them are AMEC Foster Wheeler, who, with assistance from our students, designed and built a rain collection system for the school garden and who continues to present STEM-related lessons to children in grades 1-5 annually, CERM, Corporate Environmental Risk Management, LLC, who work directly with our students in Science Olympiad, Georgia Power, who present lessons to our 3rd-5th grade students and have provided us a free weeklong camp for our rising 4th and 5th graders, and the Woodruff Arts Center, who have worked extensively with our students and teachers to integrate the Arts into core content teaching and learning.