EDUCATION IS PROSPERING in the Little Elm Independent School District (LEISD), with plans to break ground this fall on the highly-anticipated K-8 Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) Academy. The school will be the first of its kind in Texas, designed to deliver forward-thinking instruction to kindergarten through eighth grade students. The approximately 80,000 square-foot STEM Academy will take residence on a 31-acre parcel in The Tribute, a 1,600-acre lakeside golf and resort community located in The Colony, and will open its doors for the 2014-2015 school year.
The school design includes beautiful facades to complement The Tribute’s architecture, while the physical space provides opportunity to be used as a teaching tool. Grade levels are divided into “houses” rather than traditional hallways lined with classrooms. The STEM approach champions collaboration, which is why these “houses” are connected by a two-story atrium for school-wide meetings and to facilitate small group instruction and discussion.
LEISD Superintendent Lynne Leuthard further explains, “We have been working with a community-based design team for the past year on the STEM Academy planning, not just the physical building, but also the manner in which instruction will be delivered.” Ms. Leuthard continues, “Many STEM schools are refurbishments of existing buildings. In this case, we had the opportunity to design the space from the ground up to meet learning needs. We have created flexible learning spaces, making it easier for students to collaborate. Research has proven the K-8 model results in a very strong academic climate as well as cultivates social skills — things students absolutely need to be successful.”
The vision of the STEM Academy is to create a collaborative learning environment. As a project-based learning campus, the STEM Academy provides students an authentic experience in lessons of discovery with real-world applications. Additionally, the district plans to implement project-based learning on a smaller scale in all of its campuses. The goal is to provide rigorous, quality instruction to every student in LEISD, continuously considering the needs of each campus. Currently, LEISD provides laptops for students in grades 6-12.
The financial partnership between the developer, the HOA and the school district helped to make the school’s construction possible. Jack Matthews, president of Matthews Southwest, says, “Education in today’s technological culture is of the upmost importance. It has been inspiring to witness the insight that Little Elm ISD has displayed in pioneering the academy, and it speaks volumes about the future of the district’s schools. We are honored that they chose The Tribute as the initiation of their incredible vision, and look forward to a long and historic future with Little Elm ISD.”
The STEM Academy is a public school that will serve students residing in The Tribute and throughout the district. In keeping with the culture of LEISD, the K-8 STEM Academy will undoubtedly drive its students to excel, giving students the tools they need to be successful. “In addition to the early focus on careers in the STEM fields that will be part of the learning experiences, our students will have a greater understanding of twenty-first century learning skills,” Ms. Leuthard says. “These are the skills we use in the ‘real world’ to collaborate around projects and products using technology. The enthusiasm surrounding the project, combined with the unique design, will really make this school something that will be emulated by others.”
It is a brand-new day in the Little Elm Independent School District, one where the finest education is available to the next generation of thinkers. For more information about the STEM Academy, visit leisd.ws or call LEISD at 972-292-1847. For more information about The Tribute Lakeside Golf & Resort Community, visit thetribute.com.
As featured in Frisco Style magazine, August 2013.