Ann Arbor Public Schools have rolled out a variety of new initiatives this year. Many of the changes are a result of last year's Listen and Learn tour by Superintendent Jeanice Swift. The new STEAM at Northside program's different approach to education has resulted in an enrollment spike.
When Jeanice Swift came to Northside Elementary School to hear from parents a year ago the building was operating at less than 50 percent capacity. Instead of worrying about possibly closing the school, the challenge now is finding ways to accommodate over 400 students in the lunchroom. The change came after a switch to a science, technology, engineering, arts, and math or STEAM based curriculum.
New principal Joan Fitzgibbon says children are getting a complete education through an emphasis on project based learning. "They'll have a science project where they then can bring in things like reading or math as it's applicable to what they're studying. So they'll still have the skills taught in some part of the day, and somedays all of the of the day, you know, but what will be different is they'll always have this project going on in the background," Fitzgibbon says.
This hands on approach to learning has fans among kids and their parents. Nicole Robichaud says so far it's been a great start to second grade for her son Jack. "Comes home very excited every day, learning something new and actually not even realizing he was learning. So that was kind of cool," Robichaud says.
Fitgibbon says at this point in the school year, especially with so many new students, they're still building a community of learners. She says by the end of the month another portion of the new program will be in place. Every student will have an I-pad or tablet to enhance the curriculum.