Preparing for the future: Charlotte Prep invests in STEM curriculum

Parents at Charlotte Prep donated approximately $225,000, which the school is investing in improving the infrastructure of their STEM facilities. Courtney Schultz/SCW photo

Parents at Charlotte Prep donated approximately $225,000, which the school is investing in improving the infrastructure of their STEM facilities. Courtney Schultz/SCW photo

Charlotte Preparatory School is taking a step forward when it comes to embracing science, technology, engineering and math for its students.
The south Charlotte school recently invested approximately $225,000 through parent donations to enhance its STEM curriculum for the upcoming academic year. The school has been a STEM school for about four years, focusing on science, technology, engineering and math, but decided this summer to take it up a notch.
“We recognize that’s where the jobs will be in the future,” Blair Fisher, the head of the school, said, adding the curriculum attempts to develop logical and critical thinking skills which can be “applicable to any career in life.”
Fisher said the school’s goal is to carry out its mission in the best possible way. “Everything we do is based on what is best for the kids,” Fisher said. The independent, non-profit institution has nearly 400 students enrolled from pre-kindergarten to eighth grade.
Fisher wants students to become outstanding citizens and be prepared to attend any high school of their choosing when they leave his campus.
“When students enter college or the workplace, they enter a competitive environment,” Jeanette Stiles, the school’s director of technology, said. “The acquisition of both critical thinking and technological skills are essential to succeeding in those environments and on a broader scale for overall success in the 21st century marketplace. Charlotte Prep’s STEM curriculum is designed to help students master today’s technology, develop in them life-long skills in utilizing technology to enhance their own learning and productivity and help them to build the skills and flexibility they will need to successfully adapt to future technologies.”
Fisher said the infrastructure of the school’s STEM programs will catch up to the curriculum, thanks to this summer’s investment. The funds will go to an upgraded computer lab, updated science and STEM labs, SMART boards in every classroom and new science and curriculum materials. The teachers also took professional development classes through the Discovery Place and the school hired a full-time STEM coordinator.
“The engineering and math focus of STEM curriculum helps students learn to think logically, to develop abstract reasoning skills, to solve problems and to design effective solutions to problems they encounter both in academic and ‘real world’ situations,” Stiles said. “These emphases also interweave with the scientific mindset of making the testing hypotheses and help students better understand and positively influence the world in which they live.”
Fisher believes the STEM curriculum ties in with what he considers a technology-focused world, and that it’s important to introduce technology to children at a young age.
“We know (the students) have the interest (in) and intelligence (for) technology,” he said. Fisher cited third-graders making websites and spreadsheets as an example of how the school integrates technology into the curriculum.
“The earlier we can build the foundation, the more options of schools and careers the students will have later on,” Fisher said. “Technology is a focus area in itself, but it’s also a springboard to learn in other areas.”
Fisher also considers Charlotte Prep’s math program as the strongest in the Charlotte area. The school adopted the Math in Focus curriculum from Singapore after extensive research, according to Fisher. The program includes “readiness groups” where students progress through math lessons “at their own pace” to “best suit their learning.”
“There is not a school in Charlotte – maybe the country – with a more individualized math program” in a non-gifted school, Fisher said. Each math classroom has two teachers, as well as laptops for development.
The highest level of math the strongest students will learn is geometry, preparing them for calculus when they reach high school. The school also requires online math problems throughout the summer to avoid “summer drain,” Fisher added, saying his goal is to carry out the school’s mission in the best possible way.
“Everything we do is based on what is best for the kids,” Fisher said. “We don’t want to be everything to everybody… everything we do is intentional. We want to bathe kids in the strongest possible curriculum.”
Numerous graduates of Charlotte Prep have gone on to become valedictorians or salutatorians at their high schools, attend Ivy League schools and achieve high scores on national exams, according to Fisher, who sees their accomplishments as a reflection of the school and “proves what we’re doing is working.”
Go to www.charlotteprep.org or call 704-366-5994 for more information about Charlotte Prep.

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Courtney Schultz

About Courtney Schultz

Courtney Schultz is a recent college graduate from Campbell University in Buies Creek, N.C. She has both a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism and Political Science. At Campbell, she was the editor-in-chief of the university’s student newspaper for nearly three years and worked for the Siskey YMCA in their membership services and marketing department. She mostly covers education news for the Matthews, Mint-Hill, and greater Charlotte areas.

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