The STEM Certification process was a multi-year journey that culminated in a visit from a nine member STEM certification team from the Georgia Department of Education. They visited students at all levels and saw projects ranging from the study on maximizing crop yield in the minimum space comparing traditional gardening, vertical gardens, aquaponics and hydroponics; to vermiculture (worm farming) and composting; to integrated math and science lessons in the Children’s garden. Students at Ford also showed off their skills in computer programming, science Olympiad, Rivers Alive, and Odyssey of the Mind competitions.
The certification team recognized the long-term partnerships formed with parents, community members, and businesses as one of the greatest strengths of Ford. By bringing in volunteers, they have tremendously enhanced the educational experiences afforded to their students. On any given day you’ll see volunteers throughout the building working with small groups, teaching an Earth Parent lesson in the gardens, serving as a guest speaker, and more!
I have had the pleasure of witnessing the transformation first hand over the past several years. The dedication and focus of the staff is impressive. They have cultivated a school culture that is incredibly collaborative, risk taking, and dissatisfied with the status quo. At the center of the transformation are the long-term environmental education chair, Catherine Padgett and STEM lab teacher Colleen Cauffiel. Ms. Cauffiel was able to build on the environmental foundation laid by Mrs. Padgett. Cauffiel’s importance to the school, staff and students was evident when she was named their Teacher of the Year on Tuesday afternoon.
Tom Cole, retired brigadier general, parent and longtime volunteer at Ford, said it best when he had the opportunity to address the STEM certification team. “We are pleased that you are here to see what we’re doing at Ford. However, whether the state decides to award STEM Certification to our school or not, will not change what we’re doing. We will continue our STEM efforts because we know that it is what’s best for children.”
by Dr. Sally Creel