Florida STEAM School Goes 1:1 with Grant Funding

Students at a Florida magnet school are using a new 1-to-1 program to add an "A" to the typical STEM program.

Thanks to a $1 million grant from the federal Magnet Schools Assistance Program, Stone STEAM Magnet Middle School in Melbourne, FL, is rolling out a new computer initiative this spring that will give every student and teacher a Macbook Air computer. The digital learning initiative — which adds art to the traditional science, technology, engineering and math that create the STEM acronym — is meant to take advantage of cutting-edge technology, high-interest electives and an enhanced curriculum.

Students will receive approximately 900 new computers when they report back to school after the holiday break. Eventually, they will be able to take the laptops home with them, following a gradual roll-out designed to help students understand the responsibilities that come with new technology.

Stone Technology Director Gordon Shupe said the program is the culmination of a "long dream" for him.

"Now students can really learn at a drop of a hat," Shupe told Florida Today. "They don't have to reserve a computer lab. They can just pop open the laptop and go and investigate that burning question they have."

Teachers at Stone spent much of the fall working on plans for curriculum revisions that will reflect the enhanced opportunities with the laptop program.

Teacher Rick Flesher said he is looking toward a blended learning model where, for instance, he will assign students an essay on the Declaration of Independence. They will write the essay on their computers, share it with other students and comment on each other's ideas.

Language arts teacher Emily MacWhinnie said she plans to eliminate the use of paper and pens completely from her classroom and some students have already created "movie trailers" about library books they've read that were broadcast over the school's internal television network.

"People don't use phone books anymore," Shupe added. "They don't use fold-out maps when they travel. We want our students to have relevant experiences that tie in with life outside the classroom."

About the Author

Michael Hart is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer and the former executive editor of THE Journal.

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