By: Jennifer Dettling Chickens, Rabbits, and Fish! Oh My! Students at Dundee Elementary Academy have the opportunity to interact with these animals, learn about plants in an outside garden, and dive into the study of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (S.T.E.M). Dundee Elementary Academy (DEA) opened its doors this year and welcomed in a new flock of students. Nestled in a rural part of Polk County between Orlando and Tampa, the school offers kindergarten through fourth grade students the opportunity to apply various tasks normally associated with schooling- like reading, math, and science-to the field of agriscience. Last year DEA, formally Dundee Elementary, learned that it was part of a multimillion dollar grant to create a continuous K-8 program on the east side of Polk County. The grant is for three years and provides the school with funds to transform it into a state of the art agri-STEM school. A portion of the funding also provides staff and students with a variety of technologies. Third and fourth grade students are able to work with class sets of iPads. Kindergarten through second grade share class sets of iPods. Teachers and students are able to utilize other technologies like digital microscopes and probes as they explore plants, soil, or anything else that might catch their eyes. Dundee Elementary Academy is also exploring the possibility of becoming an IB school and will apply for candidacy in April of 2015. Once accredited, DEA will be the only elementary school on the east side of the county that offers International Baccalaureateâ€™s Primary Years Programme. These two foci provide students with an insight to how their actions, attitudes, and decisions concerning agriscience can have a global impact. Students at DEA have the opportunity to participate in S.T.E.M lab on a regular basis. In the lab, students are able to see science concepts unfold right before their eyes. For example, first grade students were able to better visualize precipitation thanks to a little water, shaving cream, and food coloring. Students of all grades are also able to learn about aquaponics. This is the process of growing plants that are fertilized by using water that passes through a fish tank. The waste of the fish is used to provide nutrients to plants. In the classroom, students are also exposed to the process of design embedded within S.T.E.M. During a classroom S.T.E.M lesson, students first learn about a topic by closely reading about the topic and problem. Then, 32
they collaborate and develop possible solutions for the problem. Finally, they test and report about their solutions. During a third grade S.T.E.M project students were learning about flight. Teachers had students design their very own airplanes and conducted tests to determine which design was the best after growing their knowledge about the history and mechanics of flight. The classroom teacher can also utilize the outdoor classroom, which was purchased and installed by Double Thumb Growing Solutions and Evergreen Irrigation. There are two components to the outdoor classroom. One is the actual functioning classroom. There are seats for students and even an outdoor chalkboard for the teacher. The other is the full garden that is already producing variousÂ vegetables, strawberries, and herbs. The garden houses eight growing tables, two three tiered shelves, and large round growers all with built in fertigation. This system allows students the opportunity to see how their food is produced from pollination to picking. Classroom teachers can use the outdoor classroom in a variety of ways. Instead of learning about measurement in the classroom, teachers can have their students capture measurement data about the growth of various plants. Teachers can also use the outdoor classroom to learn about compare and contrast by having their students compare the variety of vegetables growing in the outdoor classroom.