Bartlett School District: Making Waves in Tennessee

Facilitating Self-Actualization

Located in the town of its namesake in Tennessee, Bartlett School District is home to six elementary schools, three middle schools, and two high schools. Within the last few years, the district has worked tirelessly to build up its STEAM program. Woz ED has helped them move forward by providing opportunities for each student to explore STEAM education.

Their approach to STEAM (their program also incorporates the arts) comes from a career and technical education standpoint-using STEM concepts to prepare students for post-secondary education and beyond, starting as early as preschool. Sharonda Rose, Principal of Rivercrest Elementary School in Bartlett District, shares a recent discovery,

“Research has said that by eighth grade, a student has already been exposed to the career that they are likely to choose to pursue.”

Rivercrest, along with the rest of Bartlett District, is committed to introducing career paths within science and technology so that students can visualize themselves in these positions. The district’s innovative approach to education is highlighted by Ms. Rose,

“I want to create an experience for the children, not just the traditional lecture books and paper learning, I want to appeal to all types of learners and create a space for them to not only pursue higher ed, but also trade school, and other avenues that can work for them.”

This approach fits in with the Woz ED way-preparing K-12 aged students for promising futures in creative ways. That is why the partnership between Bartlett and Woz ED has been “the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”

Rivercrest Elementary School Spotlight

When Sharonda Rose became Principal of Rivercrest, the school, along with other schools in the district, had an honors STEAM program, but this was reserved for only certain students. She set a goal for the school to create a STEAM program that would be accessible to every Rivercrest student.

When the Woz ED team visited Bartlett in 2021, and Ms. Rose went to her first training, she saw a way to make this possible. She was not the only one in the district who knew that STEAM Education would open new doors for teachers and students. She experienced ample support from the district’s superintendent, Dr. David Stephens, and other administrators.

Fast forward to 2023 and Rivercrest has reached its goal of introducing STEAM to each student. Through Title I funding, the school was able to hire a licensed STEM instructor whom each child in K-5 sees every week. In this class, Woz ED STEM Kits are utilized within pathways such as coding, drones, and cybersecurity.

The school has introduced innovative projects like their monthly, optional take-home STEAM project. Here, students are presented with a problem and asked to create something that could solve this problem using STEAM concepts. These projects are displayed in the school’s STEAM gallery.

It doesn’t stop there. The school has recently become a Tennessee STEAM Designated School, an award granted by the Tennessee Department of Education and the Tennessee STEM Innovation Network. They also received notoriety as a Tennessee Rewards School, the state’s highest award for exceptional schools.

As a result, Rivercrest recently announced they are a Level 5 School based on testing data for the 2022-2023 school year. This is the highest distinction available based on TVAAS composite scores.To top that off, Rivercrest recently received a $35,000 grant from the state to enhance its STEAM programs. 

District-Wide Happenings

Bartlett began their STEAM program at the middle school level. The district has three Woz ED pathways implemented in all grade levels. These are drones, coding, and cybersecurity. At the middle and high school levels, they have started implementing engineering design and robotics. Next will come AI, mobile app development, and animation.

Every school at the middle and high school levels within the district has a designated STEM teacher, along with a few of the elementary schools. There is a huge push for what Clark Knight refers to as “K-Employment.” In his position as a Career and Technical Administrator, Knight aims to introduce career pathways early and has committed to include careers in STEM like drones, cybersecurity, animation, and engineering design.

This summer, the district held a summer enrichment program using Woz ED STEM kits. This program included a handful of lessons related specifically to building and piloting drones. Mr. Knight told me that this was a big success and created a new level of engagement and excitement for the students. The district is now gearing up to create a dual enrollment STEM course that transfers over to local universities and allows students to explore careers in technology and science.

A Positive Force for Many

Clark Knight attributes the resilience of the students in his district, in part, to STEAM education. He says,

“They need to know how to think. STEAM helps them to think differently. It encourages problem-solving and thinking through ideas and not fearing to fail.”

Ms. Rose agrees. She has seen her students improve in what she calls the “four C’s”: collaboration, communication, critical thinking, and creativity. Now, this is the bar that she uses to assess lesson plans and activities. She asks the teachers to make sure that each activity allows students to grow in each of these areas. Not only do the students participate more and have fun in the classroom, but they are testing better, showcasing the link between engagement and student success.

Bartlett’s focus on career and technical education, along with its STEAM program, operates based on showing students what is possible for them in the future. They have community partners come in and show them what a professional engineer looks like. The students take field trips to local businesses to see what careers are present for them in their own communities. They do all of this with the hope that it will allow students to see that they are capable of achieving whatever it is they want to. They too can become engineers, pilots, animators, data analysts, musicians, and the list goes on.

Ms. Rose told me about a STEAM pledge that the students recite each morning at Rivercrest. It goes something like this:

“I am a dreamer, I am a thinker, I can ask questions. I can imagine possibilities. I am an innovator. I am an inventor…”

Speaking things into existence is a powerful tool for anyone to use, especially for young people. The more you repeat something the better engrained it becomes in the subconscious. Educators in Bartlett are teaching their students how to self-actualize and STEAM education has been a vehicle for students to become more confident, resilient, and creative. 

Published: August 25, 2023


Science Kits

Career-Aligned Pathways


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