How do you tap the energy and creativity of middle school students? By starting Innovation Academies! At Webb and Martin Middle Schools, Austin Voices has helped plan and support these programs combining STEM and the creative arts.
In the Fall of 2015, Martin Middle School began its new Innovation Academy with 25 sixth graders. Planned over 9 months with the support of Austin Voices, the Innovation Academy focuses on project-based learning and the creative process in science, technology, the arts and writing. Teachers work together to blend curriculum together across subjects, and students spend time with real-world professionals, both in school and out in the community. Recently, students spent the day at UT experiencing college classes and a robotics lab. This fall, Martin opened a “maker space” made possible through a $25,000 gift from the Austin Chronicle and $15,000 from Austin Energy. AVEY continues to recruit new partners, like the Boy Scouts, who have brought their new STEM Scouts after school program to Martin.
Webb Middle School has also gotten on board with their version of the Innovation Academy. Started through the Community School planning process at Webb, it was decided that, starting with 2016-17 sixth graders, half of the school would be in the Innovation Academy and half in a new World Cultures Academy focused on language. So far, Webb sixth graders are experienced robotics and cross-curricular projects like the COPE school-wide oxygenation project, inspired by NASA, that spreads plants throughout hallways and classrooms to increase air quality. Starting in January, 2017, all Innovation students at Webb will have their own Chromebook laptop computer to assist with science, technology and arts projects.