Giving Compass' Take:

• Sundai M. Riggins, writing for The 74, discusses the transformation of a DC public school after implementing STEM learning projects as part of the Design Lab innovation initiative. 

• How can donors support more STEM learning initiatives in schools?

• Read more about how to fund STEM education. 

Some might not expect a school in southeast Washington, D.C., to have the only all-black robotics team at a national competition. Others might look at Hendley Elementary School’s Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) scores and not assume that our students are coding, problem-solving, and engaging in critical thinking daily.

Even I could have been discouraged when I saw that less than 10 percent of our fourth- and fifth-grade students participated in the annual school science fair when I started as principal.

Instead, I was motivated by it.

Over the past year, we have made radical changes at Hendley and introduced our predominantly African-American pre-K3 through fifth-grade students to the world of science, technology, engineering, and math. These changes didn’t come about with a sweeping reform. They are a result of D.C. Public Schools empowering school leaders to figure out what our students and communities need, and providing the resources and support we need to transform our schools.

Just a little over a year ago, I applied to a district initiative hoping for some extra funding and a few new books to add to my professional library. DCPS had just launched the Design Lab, a hub of innovation, and advertised it as a place to dream big and to think radically about a pathway toward enacting creative change within your school.

Here's what makes the Design Lab different:

  • The focus is solely on school-level support.
  •  Innovation is the norm.
  •  There is no one-size-fits-all approach.

Read the full article about introducing STEM learning by Sundai M. Riggins at The 74