By Adam Young

White Pine School District

For the last four months, David E. Norman principal Cammie Briggs and I have been working with Nevada Department of Education professionals to secure funding for an innovative new college and career ready program at the school.  

I am thrilled to announce that the school has received a grant of nearly $300,000 to launch the DEN Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math (STEAM) Academy. This concept was developed in examining the research compiled at the Florida Center for Reading Research at Florida State University specific to magnet schools and the impact they have on raising the culture of achievement and improving student performance.

All students in White Pine are eligible to apply to the STEAM Academy, which is comprised of one classroom per grade level from first through fifth grade.  Students who are selected will engage in additional learning opportunities each day, participate in hands-on workshops on select Fridays during the year, and choose at least one club to participate in relative to their specific STEAM interests.  

During the school day, students—with the guidance of their teachers—will approach learning in an experiential, inquiry based, and active manner.  Classrooms will probably be noisy!  And students will spend lots of time moving, interacting, asking questions, and learning by doing.  

The academy will be launched in partnership with educational research partner WestEd, which has experience in this model throughout the country.  Teachers and staff are busy reconfiguring classrooms and labs to accommodate and support the Academy. Special training will be conducted prior to the school year beginning and again through the course of the year.

The grant funds also bring the opportunity to hire an instructional coach based at DEN.  The district’s vision is to develop a world class learning environment—and this is best done through regular, specific feedback and collaboration with teachers as they strive to make the improvements necessary to achieve that lofty aspiration.

For the last two years, literacy has been the vehicle used to drive improvement throughout the district and that will not change with the STEAM Academy. Students will continue to read and write daily during literacy blocks. Students’ literacy work will be connected to the content they are accessing in the Academy.

But this is not all! The board of trustees has authorized college and career ready specialists to continue providing Gifted and Talented instruction at DEN and McGill, choral music experiences at DEN, McGill, and White Pine Middle School, and advanced mathematics exploration for students at DEN and WPMS. The board also authorized a separate college and career ready specialist position at WPMS.

At Lund and White Pine High School, robust Career and Technical education programs will continue thanks to the work of Becky Murdock, WPHS principal, and Catalina Jones, district grant coordinator.  

All told, the district wrote for and received more than $400,000 in competitive grant funds that will allow for programs like Health Science, Sports Medicine, Computer Science, Web Design and Development, Horticulture, Welding, and Culinary to continue to prepare students for life after high school.  

In Lund, these funds allow for Electrical, Horticulture, Small Engines, Wood Construction, Welding, and other CTE programs to continue.

Again through grant funds, WPHS will hire a Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) teacher and coach for the school year. This professional will work with teachers to support the integration of STEM practices and content into instruction and will provide learning experiences for students as well.

The district’s partnership with Great Basin College will continue, with high school and adult students participating in GBC’s diesel technician certification program on the WPHS campus.  Juniors and seniors are eligible to spend nearly half of their school day earning college credit and gaining outstanding experience for the workforce.

And last, the district will continue its partnership with the Cooperative Extension office and Juan Carlos Cervantes, who will work with students in McGill, Lund, and Baker building and flying airplanes and drones.  

The district’s vision is to change the world by creating a world class learning environment where all participants work interdependently to achieve our mission of promoting, supporting, and ensuring high levels of learning.  

The district performance plan outlines an aligned and coherent set of goals and strategies designed to help our caring and dedicated educators in achieving this lofty aspiration.  

Our work as educators is constantly evolving and adapting to meet the needs of students and the demands of society.  I am so proud and thankful to be part of this noble work.  

I can’t wait for our students and teachers to return to school and collaboratively work to change the world!