STEAM For The Whole Community: Bashaw Elementary School

Full STEAM Ahead in Manatee County

When I caught up with Bashaw Elementary School’s principal, James Dougherty, he was getting ready to paint the teacher’s lounge during summer break. The school, located in Bradenton, Florida, starts back up again in August and they are already preparing for their student’s arrival. Before Dougherty took the job as the principal of Bashaw, he was assistant principal at Palm View Elementary, Manatee District’s first Woz ED Pathway School. Over the past few years Bashaw has explored various STEAM and science implementation methods. The students are now exposed to STEAM and science concepts within the instructional day and after school.

As Dougherty tells me, the school went from zero to one hundred overnight in terms of Woz ED STEAM resources. With local STEAM initiatives in the county, such as a local tax milage referendum directly allocated to STEAM education and a post-COVID grant, Bashaw acquired almost the entire range of Woz ED Kits at once. The challenge was to effectively utilize these wonderful resources, whether in the classroom or after regular hours.

Bashaw has done an excellent job of keeping the community engaged by holding STEAM events not only for students but also for their families, friends, and local businesses. Dougherty attributes the elementary school’s success to the Manatee community. He loves being part of this supportive, celebratory, involved, and inclusive group of people dedicated to education.

STEAM and Science at Bashaw Elementary

The core of the STEAM curriculum is taught in “after-school enrichment” programs. In these programs, teachers instruct students for an hour and a half in various STEAM-related subjects. These enrichment programs include the 3D Design and Print Club and Basic Coding. This past year, Dougherty hired a campus drone expert, James Millhaven, a retired Navy veteran with real-world experience in drones and aviation. Now, four out of five days are filled with extracurricular STEAM activities, with at least 60 students participating in these programs this past year. The teachers and staff at Bashaw have found that these enrichment programs align nicely with the in-depth STEAM and Science Kits provided by Woz ED.

In addition to enrichment programs, several Woz ED STEAM Kits are incorporated into the school’s engineering class as part of the arts program. Every student from grades K-5 has an engineering block for 50 minutes each week. Within this course, students participate in lessons from the Robotics and Coding pathways. The Woz ED Science Kits are easily integrated into the school’s existing science curriculum, as science is part of the everyday schedule.

Perhaps the most prized STEAM learning experience at Bashaw is the biannual STEAM Showcase. Once in the fall and once in the spring, for an entire day and evening, Bashaw students participate in STEAM learning activities, and the whole community gets involved. Students form groups to create a STEAM-related project using Woz ED Kits. During the instructional day, students have the opportunity to act as both experts and explorers. Each group is required to visit and listen to a project from every grade level, receiving a STEAM passport where they take notes and check off the activities they’ve completed.

In the evening, families come to see the students present their projects. Local businesses like The Bishop Museum of Science, Manatee County Parks and Recreation, and The Palma Sola Botanical Gardens set up tables, give demonstrations, and hold raffle giveaways for the Bashaw community. It truly is a community-wide event with opportunities for everyone to get involved with STEAM.

Awesome Science Data And Other Outcomes.

Science is assessed in grade five in the state of Florida. This past year’s fifth grade class was in third grade when Bashaw began its deep dive into STEAM and hands-on science learning. Science scores are up fourteen percent from last year. This data is incredible and it serves as a major motivator for teachers and administrators heading science and STEAM programs.

“Having STEAM be a part of our culture is something that I greatly attribute to that growth. Next year we are shooting for even higher collective science scores.”

The teachers love the accessibility of the Woz ED Kits. This feature has made the process easier. Dougherty shares an experience he had with Mr. Millhaven. When he was gearing up to start the drones enrichment program, Dougherty gave him a drone building kit from Woz ED to play with and see how he liked it. Millhaven called him later that evening and said “This is gold.” Not only did he love the step-by-step instructions, but also the way the concepts can be tied to real-world experiences.  Dougherty says,

“These are the ways you can take this love of a very specialized skill and turn it into the way you earn your living.” The real-world application is what sets these science and technology resources apart.

Community Supported Growth in STEAM and Science

One goal that Dougherty mentions is to partner with neighboring schools to host competitions in robotics, coding, drones, and more. This has the potential to create friendly competition, give students something to work towards, and collaborate with students at other schools. Bashaw will continue their exploration of STEAM and science implementation adding new enrichment programs and incorporating more kits into the instructional day.

Dougherty is motivated by the Manatee County Community. This is an area dedicated to their children’s education. Bashaw is a community school. Their doors are open to events, parent involvement, and the inclusion of local businesses. Parents want to come see what their kids are doing and people want to contribute to the success of local schools. Dougherty says it well,

“I want to be the person that inspires teachers and students to be the best they can be. It’s a pride point that we have a school that parents want to come visit and bring their kids to events like movie nights and STEAM showcases.”

Published: June 28, 2024


Science Kits

Career-Aligned Pathways


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