Corey Ryan, RRISD executive director of communications and community relations, said the STEAM academy at Joe Lee Johnson Elementary School, which is under construction at 2800 Sauls Drive, would focus on project-based learning, an instructional style that incorporates more than one area of study and tasks students with solving a real world problem.
An example of STEAM education elsewhere in RRISD is second-grade students at Caraway Elementary School in Northwest Austin recently completed a project-based learning task in which they redesigned the school's playground to make it accessible for children with special needs, Ryan said. Students used science skills to research and learn about playground models and English skills to write a persuasive letter to Superintendent Steve Flores about why and how the district should change the playground, he said.
In a news release Johnson Elementary School Principal Gabi Niño said the furniture and building design on the campus would be influenced by the skills children need to be ready to join the workforce in the future.
“The concept of STEAM learning is inspiring and influencing changes in furniture, open classrooms and collaborative spaces," she said. "Our campus will look different than traditional in both the classroom areas and library."
The new school will also include elements from the “Library of the Future” project, which allowed students from Cedar Ridge High School to design an innovative school library in partnership with Dell Inc. Elements will include natural lighting, flexible furniture and easy access to an outdoor learning area, according to the district.
Ryan said the school would also include concepts from the district’s Next Generation Digital Classroom pilot program, which puts an emphasis on incorporating more technology into RRISD schools.
“My job is to ensure my students are prepared for the future career demands,” Niño said. “I have to make sure my students have the opportunity to develop the skills to adjust, solve problems and be flexible thinkers in order to own their future.”
The 34th elementary school in the district was named in honor of former principal, coach, math teacher and bus driver Joe Lee Johnson, who worked for RRISD from 1950-86, according to the district.
The attendance zone for the new school will include a small portion of Bluebonnet Elementary School students who live south of SH 45 N as well as half of the students who live north of Merrilltown Drive and currently attend Wells Branch Elementary.
The school will have more than 500 students when it opens in August for the 2016-17 school year. Its capacity is more than 900, according to district officials.