Gulf Shores Elementary School's STEAM Collaborative Learning Center offers innovative learning environment

By Jessica Vaughn
Education Editor
jessica@gulfcoastmedia.com
Posted 9/16/22

GULF SHORES — The Gulf Shores Board of Education cut the ribbon of the new STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Math) Collaborative Learning Center at the city’s elementary …

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Gulf Shores Elementary School's STEAM Collaborative Learning Center offers innovative learning environment

Gulf Shores Elementary students Evie and Lee gave an “explosive” demonstration with a volcano project.
Gulf Shores Elementary students Evie and Lee gave an “explosive” demonstration with a volcano project.
Jessica Vaughn / Gulf Coast Media
Posted

GULF SHORES — The Gulf Shores Board of Education cut the ribbon of the new STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Math) Collaborative Learning Center at the city’s elementary school on Thursday, Sept. 15.
“The whole building really gives our students and teachers the opportunity to learn,” Superintendent Matt Akin, Ph.D., said. “The Gulf Shores Board of Education has an unmatched commitment to education and a vision for the future of this school system.”

Details: The new center, covering over 10,000 square feet, opened to students at the beginning of the school year. It provides a student-centered, experience-based learning atmosphere through the integration of low- and high-tech teaching styles into the educational philosophy.
Six new flexible classrooms, two fully equipped STEAM labs, break-out spaces, outdoor learning areas and three aquariums are featured within the center.
“How can a student find their passion if they’re not exposed to it?” Kevin Corcoran, GSBE president, asked. “Whether it’s caring for marine life, hydroponically growing produce for our cafeterias, building and racing electronic vehicles, performing and producing music, building relay for airplanes or flying drones above, we believe that letting students experience as many different career paths as possible is key to helping them find their passion in life.”

Innovative learning environment: Every student in the elementary school will utilize the two STEAM labs. Teachers will also have the opportunity to work with STEAM teacher Hilary McKinney on methods to implement STEAM activities in classroom lessons.
“We’re a little bit rare in that all of our students go to art, music, library, Spanish and STEAM during an eight-day rotation, so they have all of those enrichments embedded into their day,” Principal Alicia Early, Ph.D., said. “Hilary does an amazing job in STEAM where she’s tied in science standards and math standards, and they’re learning how to experiment and they’re learning how to write about their experiments.”

New classrooms: The classrooms within the STEAM Collaborative Learning Center offer just that – an opportunity for collaboration between students. Each classroom features a garage door that can be opened and closed as desired. The furniture allows for easy movement to set up learning areas of all shapes and sizes. The hallways are lined with multiple seating areas to encourage teamwork and conversation.
“It’s so interesting to get to see kids collaborate in different ways,” Molly Sparkman, third grade teacher, said. “One of my favorite things is to have fun Friday. We get to open the garage doors and kids get to go out in the hallway and sometimes they get to work with other classes too. So, they’re not just getting to work with their peers, they’re getting to work with older and younger students.”

Future excitement: This is far from the last addition planned at Gulf Shores City Schools. A future project currently in development is the new high school. When the high schoolers move into their new campus, the middle school will transfer into the current high school. Then, the elementary school will expand to include the middle school building.
“I think even the teachers who aren’t out in this building, they’ve been able to see what the future of our school could look like,” Early said. “It’s brought an excitement to everybody, not just the folks who are out here, because it’s like, ‘Wow, this is what all of our buildings could look like.’ We know there’s a remodel phase when we move over to the middle school, so there’s just a lot of excitement.”

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