Oak Ridge School District first in state to become AdvancED STEM certified

OAK RIDGE, Tenn. (WATE) - Oak Ridge School District is the first school district in the country and only the second district in the world to become AdvancED STEM (science, technology, engineering and math)-certified.

"Four years ago we set on a path to be the premier STEM district in the state, if not the country, and we're very excited to say that every school in our district is now AdvancED STEM certified," said Oak Ridge Superintendent Bruce Borchers.

Every school put a focus on those STEM areas but also broadened those teaching skills to fit inside every classroom.

"We defined STEM based on the four C's which are communication, creativity, collaboration and critical thinking, and when our STEM certifying body came through (AdvancED) they saw the four C's in virtually every classroom, not only in our traditional STEM content area classrooms but also in our social studies clasrooms, in our world languages classrooms," said Tracey Beckendorf-Edou, Executive Director of Teaching and Learning.

With Oak Ridge High School becoming STEM certified, now all of Oak Ridge School District is STEM certified making it the first school district in the United States to do that and only the second in the world.

"Students are getting to put themselves in the driver's seat of their learning rather than just being receptacles of our knowledge and they're doing large projects, relevant real-world projects so that they can contribute to the community," said ORHS Science Teacher Kathy Foust.

That is something many outside the schools are looking at very closely.

"It helps the city recruit new business and new industry and that also provides opportunities for our children, our students, if they choose, to stay in Oak Ridge, and we hope they do," said Oak Ridge Mayor Warren Gooch.

ORHS is also the first comprehensive high school in the state to earn the distinction as an entire school as opposed to certifying a single STEM program area.

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