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Tour of center encourages future math and science leaders

E² aims to inspire students with tech

POSTED: August 6, 2013 12:42 a.m.

Parents and students involved in North Hall Middle School’s upcoming Earhart-Edison Exploration Academy met Monday for the last time before school starts.

Roughly 50 children who will be participating in the new honors program attended a get-together at the North Hall Technology Center, where they took a tour of the facility, participated in team-building exercises and met members of the Lake Lanier Rowing Club.

The purpose of the event was to introduce the students to each other and to their teachers. The students primarily come from three feeder schools — Mount Vernon Exploratory School, Riverbend Elementary and Wauka Mountain Intelligencies Academy — and many do not know each other.

“Middle school is hard for kids,” said program coordinator Kathy Mellette. “We want to make it less hard while still helping the kids get ahead.”

The Earhart-Edison Exploration Academy, or E-squared as the teachers call it, is a school-within-a-school that takes student applicants and admits them based on past academic performance, teacher recommendations, a written student narrative and a sense of inquisitiveness.

The goal of E-squared is to inspire students through a project-based curriculum that integrates science, technology, engineering and math into each lesson. Mellette hopes that, like the program’s namesakes Amelia Earhart and Thomas Edison, students will become visionaries who understand that perseverance and passion can change the world for the better.

Students will still learn everything in the Common Core Georgia Performance Standards but will also take exploratory classes every few weeks that will cover everything from art to debate to nutrition and health. These classes are designed to expose the students to different interests and to help them decide what subjects they want to pursue.

“We want to help every kid find their passion and pursue it,” said North Hall Middle School Principal Shane Rayburn. “I think this program will energize the entire middle school.”

The program’s teachers have spent countless hours over the summer to create a collaborative curriculum. Lesson plans are designed to complement those of the student’s other classes. The idea is to create a seamless learning environment. The academic year will culminate in a digital showcase of presentations from the students.

E-squared will continue through each year of middle school and hopefully prepare the students to enter the North Hall High School Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Academy. Sixth-grade students will complete a high school Earth Systems credit and, if all goes according to plan, the average student from the E-squared program will enter high school with 8-10 credits, more than are needed to pass the freshman year.

The goal isn’t early graduation but to allow students enough freedom to pursue the classes they want to, instead of having to worry about which classes they have to take, Mellette said.

Service is also a theme for the academy. Students will be required to commit to community service projects such as participation in the Georgia Adopt-A-Stream program. An elected student body, called the Student Ambassadors of Service, will help provide input into which service projects the students want to pursue.

Parents of students in the program are also required to commit to a minimum of 20 hours of participation in the academy. Participation will take many forms, from speaking engagements to organizing field trips.

“We want this program to be student-focused, not teacher or parent-focused,” Mellette said.

E-squared will have 74 students in the upcoming school year, and the teachers are not shy about their aspirations.

“This will be the state of Georgia’s middle school science, technology, engineering and math program,” Mellette said. “I know it will.”


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