School earns STEAM certification

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(Photo by MARY MALONE) Southside Elementary students recieved certificates of recognition for various achievements from Lake Pend Oreille School District officials during Tuesday’s board meeting, during which Southside Principal Jacque Johnson also announced the school officially recieved its STEAM certification this week.

SANDPOINT — From engineering to gardening, Southside Elementary offers students a variety of opportunities through its STEAM program, giving them choices and the ability to find what interests them.

STEAM is an acronym for science, technology, engineering, art and math, and for a school to become certified in the state of Idaho is a rigorous process. Nevertheless, as of this week, Southside is STEAM certified.

“This is a big deal in several ways — in the state of Idaho, we are number five,” Southside principal Jacque Johnson told Lake Pend Oreille School District officials Tuesday night.

With just five schools STEM or STEAM certified in the state, there is also funding behind that honor, Johnson said. The “trend” has been $10,000 per year for the certified schools, though it is approved by legislators annually.

“That will go a long way in providing extras for our STEAM program,” Johnson said.

Each LPOSD board meeting features one of the schools in the district, with staff and students talking about what is happening at their respective schools. Johnson used Southside’s turn at the podium to make the announcement, following a site visit by a STEM certification team from AdvancED STEM Certification on Monday.

Southside implemented the STEAM program several years ago, and has expanded to include nearly a dozen options for the kids to explore. In addition to engineering and gardening, there is Lego Zoo, applied storytelling and papermaking among other programs.

After applying for STEAM certification, Johnson said school officials were tasked this year with collecting evidence against 11 indicators. The indicators come in three categories — the learner, the educator and the experience. In the learner category, for example, the school must show that students use technology resources to conduct research, demonstrate creative and critical thinking, and communicate and work collaboratively. That is one of the five learner indicators, all of which can be found on the Idaho STEM Action Center’s website at

Then, during the site interview on Monday, four representatives interviewed teachers, students, parents and community partners to help verify the artifacts and get to know Southside, Johnson said. They also spent 20 minutes in every classroom doing observations throughout the day, she said.

In addition to the visit by the STEM certification team, Southside also held its annual Veterans Day program as well as a STEAM exhibition day on Monday. The STEAM exhibition day gives the students a chance to display, describe and demonstrate projects they have worked on since school started this year. Johnson gave a couple examples of projects the students worked on, including claymation and a custom-designed chess board.

Before wrapping up Tuesday’s presentation, a number of Southside students were recognized by school staff for various achievements. Each received a certificate of recognition from district officials as well. Those students were Teague Alderman, Juliet Evans, Bret Gutke, Samuel Hewitt, Austin Leonard, Thane Murphy, Clayton Newsome, Makenzi Norris, Alyssa Porter and Rylee Vernon.

Mary Malone can be reached by email at and follow her on Twitter @MaryDailyBee.

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