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Discovery opens first-in-state STEM Academy

Students in a Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) class at Discovery Middle School watch an FBI bomb expert demonstrate a robot. (CONTRIBUTED)
Students in a Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) class at Discovery Middle School watch an FBI bomb expert demonstrate a robot. (CONTRIBUTED)

MADISON – Superintendents across Alabama are taking note of the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Academy at Discovery Middle School, which opened Feb. 12.

West of the main facility, the academy is located in the building that originally housed vocational students for Bob Jones High School. Covering 3,200 square feet, the building has a STEM I classroom, storage and restrooms in front, along with a large STEM II lab and conference room for storage and meeting with business and industry professionals.

Superintendent Dr. Dee Fowler suggested using the building and coordinated repair and painting with director of operations Patrick Conner.

“The State of Alabama legislature approved a $50-million bond issue to provide money for new and innovative programs,” West said. “Each school district in the state received a portion of the money, based on students in career technical education.” Then, any district could apply for money for new programs.

West was awarded $230,000 to begin STEM academies for both Discovery and Liberty middle schools. After meetings with industry leaders, West researched many programs to identify a unique fit for Madison that covers the 16 national career clusters.

Students can choose projects aligned with career paths. The business community has supported students’ interests. With the STEM academy, students can realize the high school classes they need for academics to reach a career choice.

In addition, West secured other grants. Liberty and Discovery’s Career Technical Education Advisory Board and the district’s Career Technical Advisory Board with residents and business leaders guided the program’s definition.

At Discovery, Len Lanier is STEM I teacher; West handles STEM II. Liberty has STEM I teacher Daniel Yocum and STEM II teacher Christine Yeske. “We have truly developed a rigorous curriculum for our students,” West said.

Some modules are green technology, biotechnology, health care, additive manufacturing, robotics, video and audio editing, graphic design, two- and three-dimensional modeling, outdoor classroom design and outdoor gardening.

West acknowledged Madison Board of Education, middle-school administrators, the business community and Mayor Troy Trulock for the academy’s opening.

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