Stick with Education

 Guest post by Bureau Chief of Family and Community Outreach Joe Davis

I recently had a chance to hear from two accomplished individuals – one a professional, one a student – who each shared with us their stories of motivation. Both highlighted their studies in the field of engineering, and they were able to articulate their inspiring words to encourage kids to do well in school. 

Their messages really resonate with me. Student Andres Gutierrez talked about how he went from living in Colombia and not caring about school to now being a chemical engineering major and interning at a Fortune 500 company. Professional Allan Morales talked about his travels around the nation and how his education laid the foundation for his engineering career. 

Check out Andres’ video  and Allan’s video – they are exactly the types of role models our young students need.

Are you or your children on the path for a science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) career? What motivates you or your children to stay in school? How do you think education affects career development? Does your child learn about STEM at their after-school programs?


Panhandle School Visits


Warrington Middle School

Last week, I had the opportunity to visit Warrington Middle School in Escambia County. I enjoyed meeting Superintendent Malcolm Thomas, students, teachers, school board members, PTA members and administrators. Warrington is one of the state’s Intervene schools, and during my visit, I saw first-hand the challenges they are facing, and the work they are doing to improve the academic outcomes of their students. I was encouraged to see innovative learning approaches, particularly when it comes to their new National Flight Academy where students will obtain hands-on aviation classroom experiences. The program is a joint effort between the district and Pensacola’s Naval Air Station, and is the first of its kind in the nation. What a great way for students to learn STEM-focused knowledge that will help prepare them for success throughout school and in the workforce. I look forward to hearing more about this program, and appreciate the community’s active involvement in helping this school improve.  

Emerald Coast Middle School

I also visited Emerald Coast Middle School in Walton County. This new facility is quite impressive. It was interesting to see the creative approaches they are taking to use technology to aid in their students’ education.  One class had students using iPods to listen and view the day’s lesson. I also saw a music class where students were tasked with identifying various musical instruments through the use of a smart board. These represent exciting examples of how our schools are using technology to augment the learning process, and I appreciate Superintendent Carlene Anderson’s leadership and staff for their work in this district.  

It was great to see how excited our students and teachers are about making this the best school year yet. I want to continue listening and learning, and will be visiting more schools around the state soon.


Back-to-school visits


Principal Williams tells me about his plan to raise the performance of Central

Talking with a student at South Hamilton Elementary

Today I continued my “Look, Listen and Learn” tour by visiting Madison County Central School and South Hamilton Elementary School.

I was able to tour about a dozen classrooms, saw students reading and learning about science – the teachers did a great job to make the lessons interesting for the kids.

I appreciate the leadership teams at these schools who took time out of their busy schedules to talk about their successes and challenges. It was also a joy to speak with and interact with students. It was very clear that they were excited to be back at school!


“I hate science!” is no longer heard

Guest post by DOE Science Program Specialist Latasha Fisher

“To be, or not to be.” An often used quote in literary times, but begs the true question – what do you want to be when you grow up? In Florida, students have the opportunity to really engage themselves in the classroom – particularly in courses that will help them shape the future.

The fields of science, technology, engineering and math, commonly referred to as STEM, are really taking shape and will help our state’s economy for years to come. The days of saying, “I hate science!”should be pushed aside and embraced if we want our students to be profitable and compete in a globally connected society.

One teacher in Pinellas County knows all too well how to ensure that her students succeed in science. In fact, she was recently named as a finalist for the DOE/Macy’s Teacher of the Year award. Ponce de Leon Elementary School fifth grade science and writing teacher Tracy Staley is preparing her students today for the real world of tomorrow. 

At the beginning of the school year, Ms. Staley gives her new students a survey to find out how they feel about science. She recently found that 70 percent of her students had negative feelings toward science. However, by engaging her students with hands-on science lessons, she was able to make science cool and deepen the students’ confidence in their studies.

At the end of the school year, after repeating the same survey, she found that all of the students enjoyed science – one even said it was fun and they felt like a real scientist! She has found that hands-on learning also helps with language and self-esteem.

Ms. Staley uses the Inquiry Model which enables students to work through their ideas until they have evidence to support their thinking.

In one activity, students read a science fiction mystery book after learning of force and motion. Ms. Staley then asked the students to solve the mystery using the science knowledge they just learned. Students had to justify their claims about the mystery based on scientific evidence, and the result was a fun, engaging lesson that got the kids involved and increased their science and reading skills.

Does your child like science? How can teachers make science fun for students?