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Full STEAM Ahead! Oak Grove ES STEAM Academy Earns State Certification

Full STEAM Ahead! Oak Grove ES STEAM Academy Earns State Certification

Note: A gallery of photos from the celebration can be found at [CONTENT_REVIEW InternalLink].

Oak Grove Elementary School STEAM Academy celebrated the news of its State STEAM certification on Monday with cake, snacks, balloons and beads, as well as party horns—to blow off STEAM!   The school earned the designation through three years of significant work to demonstrate its commitment to STEAM, which is STEM plus art.   The process culminated in a formal State review and recommendation on Thursday, April 14.

Oak Grove ES STEAM Academy joins the prestigious list of about 80 schools statewide (and two in Cherokee County) that have earned STEM or STEAM accreditation, joining Woodstock HS and Clark Creek ES STEM Academy, which both earned STEM certification.  Oak Grove is the first STEAM certified school in Cherokee County.  According to the Georgia Department of Education, certification “recognizes schools that have implemented a culture of innovation, interdisciplinary instruction, and business and community partnerships.” 

Principal Penny Valle congratulated the staff gathered in the cafeteria after school with words of thanks and appreciation for all their hard work.  She handed out certificates of achievement to each staff member, recognizing them each as State Certified STEAM Educators.  Assistant Principal Ashley Polito and Instructional Lead Strategist Lauren Caccavone also shared their congratulations and celebrated with the staff. A slide show and video capped the program, and School Board Vice Chair Robert Rechsteiner (Rick Steiner), whose post includes the Oak Grove school, stopped in to share in the celebration.

The school’s path to STEAM accreditation came from a desire to enhance instruction and to give students a better view of potential careers.   

“62.5% of our student population is economically disadvantaged and 34.6% have limited language proficiency,” said Principal Penny Valle. “We decided to implement a STEAM program because we felt it would provide our students with access to information and skills that they otherwise may not experience. Career exposures, artist exposure, active learning experiences, and problem-solving learning broaden our students’ schemas and improve their communication skills. “

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The State review committee agreed and gave great reviews after the certification visit.  Comments from the state review committee included:

•          “Incredible journal usage with evidence of interdisciplinary learning and student problem solving.”

•          ‘All students could answer what they were learning, why it was relevant, and how it was helping the community.”

•          “A phenomenal STEAM culture with a high level of rigor and relevance.”

•          “Pervasive use of the EDP (Engineering Design Plan) was evident everywhere, even in ELA and Social Studies. This is something we rarely see, and it was powerful!”

The school thanked its community partners for their help and support, including Cherokee County Master Gardeners,, Rotary Club of Woodstock, Cobb EMC, Kyle Koester Law Offices, Modern Woodmen Financial, Professional Arts Integration Resource, Woodstock Arts, The Art Barn, and Georgia Farm Bureau. 

Project Zero Hunger partners include Cherokee County Master Gardeners, Busy B Plant Supply, Cloer Family Honeybees, Waste Management, Georgia Southern University Sustainable Aquaponics Research Center, Chester County Solid Waste Authority.

EDP Community Partners are Hightouch Hightech, 11Alive, Georgia Power, Celebrity Cruises, Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Etowah HS Drama, Skype A Scientist, Pike Nurseries and Woodstock Arts.

More information on the State STEM/STEAM certification can be found at and