Wendy Alexander/The Madera Tribune
Sherman Thomas Charter School staff, board members, dignitaries and students gather for a ribbon cutting ceremony for the STEM Academy on Monday morning.
Opens middle school science, technology, engineering, math academy
Madera’s Sherman Thomas Charter School, one of the Valley’s most progressive educational entities, continued to add to its ilist of innovations Monday at a ribbon-cutting ceremony which unveiled the school’s new STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) Academy.
Over 100 students and guests were on hand to congratulate the Academy’s principal, Jamie Brock, and her team for their latest efforts in promoting educational excellence in Madera.
Brock, a product of Madera’s schools and an alumna of Fresno Pacific University, with several teaching and administrative degrees, has thrown herself unreservedly into promoting the academy and is unapologetic for her optimism regarding the efficacy of the school’s unique program.
Brock is devoted to the academy’s mission to “prepare students, through rigorous and relevant content, to be productive and successful citizens by developing a strong work ethic and the higher-level critical thinking skills needed to solve problems in the 21st century world.”
Several leaders from Madera’s political and educational communities joined the crowd of well wishers Monday, including Supervisor Robert Poythress, Mayor Andy Medellin, County Superintendent of Schools Cecilia Massetti, and MUSD Superintendent Todd Lile, who were guest speakers. Also attending were Supervisor David Rogers, retired Sheriff John Anderson (representing State Sen. Anthony Canella), MUSD Board President Al Galvez, and former MUSD Superintendent Julia O’Kane.
The school’s executive director, Roger Leach, emceed the event and was one of the speakers.
The Sherman Thomas STEM Academy opened for students in August 2017 with an enrollment of 73 sixth, seventh, and eighth graders.
The schedule for Monday through Thursday begins at 8 o’clock with some warm-up activities and then continues until 10:15 a.m. with science investigations in which all 75 students, led by two teachers, delve into the mysteries of the physical world using inductive reasoning and technology to perform their quantitative tasks.
After a break, the students are broken up into grade levels (sixth, seventh, and eighth) for an integrated arts and humanities curriculum. From 1 p.m. until 2:30 p.m., math is taught by grade level, and for the last hour of the day, the students have PE instruction.
On Fridays, the schedule takes a different course. The students go out and deal with the real world in a collaborative environment. Field trips allow the students to see a variety of careers in action. All students will visit a minimum of four businesses during the year.
Some Fridays are “Challenge Days” in which students are placed in teams and given a challenge, with specific parameters, to work together to compete.
Other Fridays include abstract art, robotics, egg drop, invention design, visits to business partners, and college field trips.
Students who are interested in attending Sherman Thomas Charter School STEM Academy must apply and sit for an interview. They must also take a diagnostic test, which is signed and sealed, not to be opened unless the student applicant is enrolled. Brock is adamant about this point, underscoring the test is not given to determine admission to the academy but rather as a tool to assist in planning the student’s academic needs after he/she is admitted.
Admission to the STEM Academy is open to all sixth, seventh, and eighth grade students. The school is now accepting applications from this year’s fifth graders who want to enroll in the 2018/2019 school year.