The Santa Rosa County School District purportedly has become the first school district in the country to have a comprehensive K-12 science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics — also known as STEAM — curriculum in their schools.

The district is celebrating the final year of the three-year expansion of the program, called STEAM Innovate. In the first year, the district introduced STEAM curriculum to elementary and Title I middle and high schools. In the second year, it included all remaining middle schools in the program.

This year, Santa Rosa County has become the first district in the nation to integrate STEAM learning into every grade level.

STEAM Innovate trains teachers and administrators — also known as innovators — how to better educate students for the world they will face in the future, according to Assistant Superintendent Bill Emerson.

“We partner with Discovery Education to help transform the way students learn and think and the way teachers set up their classrooms and deliver instruction,” Emerson said.

On Oct. 24, district teachers and administrators gathered at AppRiver — an international industry offering web security — in Gulf Breeze to learn new skills and techniques that will support the STEAM initiative.

Karen Barber, director of federal programs for the school district, and Mike Thorpe, director of professional development, organized the event, which began at 8 a.m., with remarks from Santa Rosa County School District Superintendent Tim Wyrosdick.

A presentation titled, “Why STEAM” by Robert Corbin, a nationally recognized STEAM expert from Discovery Education, and a presentation by Gretchen Clarke, senior director of strategic alliances at AppRiver, followed.

After opening presentations, teachers and school administrators broke into groups based on their grade levels and received their first day of STEAM professional development training.

This program will reach every school in the county, affecting more than 25,000 students and more than 130 teachers. According to the district, concrete data about the effectiveness of the initiative will not be available until after this year.

“Before we started, we decided we would look at student performance data after year three,” Emerson said. “We were changing form FCAT to FSA and from Next Generation Sunshine State Standards to Florida State Standards. Since this was an attempt to change a culture, we wanted to give the professional development a chance to have an effect.  

“We plan to do a detailed analysis after we receive our state testing results for 2017-18. We do have UWF evaluate the program for implementation. The goal of this evaluation is to measure the change in teacher attitudes and the occurrence of “STEAMy” lessons in our schools.”