Photos by Ty Swenson
Seattle Public Schools Superintendent Jose Banda greeted students and parents on the first day of school (Sept. 5) at K-5 STEM at Boren, an elementary-level school first for Seattle that focuses on science, technology, engineering and mathematics. PLEASE CLICK THE IMAGE ABOVE FOR MORE.

SLIDESHOW: Opening day at K-5 STEM at Boren signifies a new direction for Seattle elementary schools

Cell phone batteries collectively drained as parents snapped photos and shot video of their children’s first day at K-5 STEM on Sept. 5, documenting not only an important milestone for West Seattle families, but for Seattle Public Schools as well.

New SPS Superintendent Jose Banda started his day off at the first elementary-level STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) program for Seattle, greeting students and parents as they arrived at the Louisa Boren building on Delridge Way S.W.

“I think it is just a great addition to our schools and to our K-5 programs and the STEM program, being able to now put it into the elementary level,” Banda told the Herald in between conversations with students. “This lends itself very well to creating a college-going culture with a focus on science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Those are some of the highest need areas when you look at job opportunities or the real need for people with those skill sets. This will be a great opportunity for children to grow up in that environment and focus on those areas and hopefully they will continue their studies and interest in these areas going through junior high, middle school, high school and on into college.”

Banda said he shared K-5 STEM Principal Shannon McKinney’s excitement at the prospect of building a successful elementary STEM program that, one day, could be emulated across the city. He said part of his intention as superintendent is to have STEM programs available to students from kindergarten all the way to graduation day from high school.

Carmela Dellino, recently named executive director of West Seattle schools after her most recent stint as the Roxhill Elementary principal, was also in attendance.

“I think it’s just exciting to have all of these parents and families be part of opening a school community from the ground up and just feeling the excitement for all grades from all around the area,” Dellino said. “I’m really excited for them, this is an exciting day for West Seattle.”

Andrea Leary, an educational consultant who worked on the design team to create a curriculum for K-5 STEM over the summer, is working with K-5 STEM in a pro bono capacity to secure partnerships with Puget Sound-based companies.

“Very exciting,” Leary said of the opening day. “We have been working really hard all summer and just to get to this point and see so many happy faces and know that we are ready for this first day … the energy is really positive.”

SPS defines the goal of K-5 STEM as “providing an engaging and challenging science- and technology-based learning environment for elementary age students. STEM subjects are a natural fit for elementary ages students who have incredible imagination and natural curiosity about the world and how it works.”

Lesley Rogers, chief communications officer for SPS, wrote in a fact sheet that students are not limited to STEM subjects, and that the school aligns with Common Core State Standards in teaching all subjects – often times through the prism of science or social studies “to make reading and writing more relevant to children.”

The school is piloting a new reading instructional program, Reading Wonders, from McGraw Hill and integrates FOSS (Full Option Science System) and Engineering is Elementary (developed by the Museum of Boston) programs into the curriculum.

Students will wear uniforms, according to Rogers, with the idea “if all students are dressed in a similar manner, it will elevate STEM at Boren to a focused learning environment,” where students are not identified socioeconomically based on the clothing they can afford, the focus on appearance “that girls adopt at earlier and earlier ages” is removed, where “teachers … truly see the student, not what they are wearing, and, as a public safety function, to help identify intruders on campus.

K-5 STEM at Boren is an interim site for at least the next two years, and the building was updated over the summer to include removal of asbestos-containing flooring, repainting and new carpet in the classrooms.

More on that update to the building here.

The renovations were paid for by the $270 million Buildings, Technology and Academics III levy approved by Seattle voters in February of 2009.

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