PHOTO BY MELANIE FLODDER
Pictured above, left to right: Superintendent Rob Moorhead, Sheena Speer, Julia Heidlage, Dr. Jenner, Neal Herzog, Director Ryan Lauber, Brett Miller, Leslie Rennie and Deputy Director Kris Wood. They welcomed Indiana State Superintendent Dr. Jenner to their school on Tuesday morning after being named a STEM Certified School of Indiana.
Excitement grew on Monday at South Ripley Elementary School as the news that the school had been named one of only 15 new STEM Certified Schools - the only one in Ripley County. This announcement was made by the Indiana Department of Education. This means the school is a leader in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education. “With now upwards of 100 STEM Certified Schools across the state, these schools are leading the way in helping our students explore, engage, and gain experiences in STEM fields,” said Dr. Katie Jenner, Indiana Secretary of Education, who was on hand Tuesday morning to help celebrate SRES. “I’ve directly witnessed several of these schools’ innovative approaches to inquiry –and problem-based learning, as they integrate STEM across their curriculum and engage families and community partners to help students build knowledge and skills that will serve them throughout their lives.”
Dr Jenner said South Ripley was an ‘academic superstar you could see in action’ as she visited the school this week. “I’m so impressed with the people at the school and I can feel the energy radiating. I am proud of their work,” she told the Versailles Republican.
Throughout the building, STEM roared with students responsible for their learning. Intense academics taught included the MILO robot, video recordings that happen daily, and STEM activities throughout.
“This is a tremendous achievement for SRES. During a strategic planning session four years ago, our school board set the direction for our schools to achieve STEM certification,” said Rob Moorhead, Superintendent of South Ripley. “The SRES staff accepted the challenge and worked very hard to achieve this certification. The leadership of SRES administrators Ryan Lauber and Kris Wood, and the tireless work of the STEM team including Brett Miller, Sheena Speer, Julia Heidlage, Leslie Rennie, and Neal Herzog enabled SRES to become the first STEM-certified school in the county of Ripley.
Say Supt. Moorhead is proud, would be an understatement. He explained: “With an application rated ‘Exemplary’ by the IDOE, the SRES team scored 74 points out of a possible 75 in the STEM rubric. This certification demonstrates that our students are highly engaged in learning STEM concepts in the SRES curriculum, as we fulfill our mission to educate today’s students to become responsible citizens of tomorrow.
SRES Principal Ryan Lauber said, “South Ripley Elementary is extremely excited about pursuing STEM certification through the Indiana Department of Education. Our application was the highest-scoring application ever received, and the IDOE said SRES is a model for schools across the state looking to create a STEM environment for their students. The vision for this certification was established by our school board, and it was achieved through the hard work of our STEM committee. Teachers, students and parents in our community should be proud of this honor.
The administrators are quick to point out that this was a collective effort that included not only a large group of people at the school, but also the students and parents who also played an important role in ensuring that all takes place together.
According to information from the IDOE, the STEM Certified Schools program was established in 2015. It recognizes schools committed to teaching STEM disciplines beyond the classroom. STEM-certified schools exemplify a highly innovative approach to education, employing a lot of inquiry, project-based learning, community engagement, entrepreneurship, student-centered classrooms, integration into humanities and related arts and extracurricular STEM activities. For high schools in particular, achieving STEM certification requires increased intention and coordination in terms of vision, schedule, and cross-disciplinary collaboration.