Somis Union School District
Imagine a school where children of diverse ethnic and economic backgrounds, including those of farmworkers and the new generation of Ventura County’s early farming families learn side by side through lessons that include how agriculture drives local industry. Somis School is such a place. Here, in a school almost 100 years old, educators design and engage learners in hands-on instructional programs sparking children’s interest in science, technology, engineering, agriculture, arts, and math.
STEAM learning is everywhere and for everyone at Somis. We designed an interdisciplinary learning environment that values: creativity, hands-on learning and engagement. This ecosystem approach impacts learning in the classroom, expanded learning, professional learning, and learning as a community.
The core components:
- Professional learning for all educators to support interdisciplinary STEAM content and pedagogical knowledge and practice,
- STEAM Family Nights to make STEAM more accessible for families, demonstrate the relationship between STEAM education and future careers and get families and communities more involved in K-8 learning.
- Focus on STEAM to support English Language Development.
Somis is situated in an astonishingly beautiful coastal agricultural community with staggering wealth and the high poverty often found with field workers. The campus sits on eight acres in the heart of Somis in Ventura County. It is a small, one-school district and serves 240 students in grades TK-8. Most students come from families with modest means (69% Free and Reduced lunch), many begin as English Learners (42%), and the majority is Hispanic (72%) White (23%) Other (5%).
Recent standardized results reveal graduating students from our TK-8 are nearest competitors of the most affluent and highest scoring corners of our county. In 2012, Somis School had the third highest gain in API of all school districts in Ventura County and in 2013 Somis School had the highest gain in API score of all school districts in Ventura County.
We believe that the combination of a small school environment, high academic expectations, skilled and dedicated staff, and family involvement provides a unique place for children to thrive. Indeed, our mission at Somis School is to provide a world-class education that challenges our students to use their minds to the fullest potential, and to be responsible stewards of the 21st century. We strive to exceed academic standards, act as a hub for the community, and nurture a learning environment where students are engaged, creative, and capable of rigorous thinking and doing.
We believe collaboration accelerates innovation. As an example, Somis partnered with Two Bit Circus, an engineering and entertainment firm, on a successful Clinton Global Initiative-America Commitment to Action to develop and pilot a professional learning series designed to increase the knowledge and experience needed to become a STEAM-equipped educator.
We honor the work of our families by illuminating the science, technology, and engineering that brings our food from the field to our fork. We strive to expand the world of our learners by exposing them to engaging STEAM experiences to ignite their curiosity, spur their creativity and develop a STEM identity so they can participate in today’s STEM driven era of innovation.
We live in a unique time in history. We have witnessed our world change as a result of the technological and innovative advances. Education is in the midst of equally tectonic shifts as a result of new standards and new funding strategies.
STEAM Literacy and Learning
Being literate in today’s world is more than about being able to read and write. With the implementation of Common Core State Standards and Next Generation Science Standards, book learning now has a complementary required ‘doing’ component. Students have to demonstrate that they can take what they learned in class and put it into practice. STEAM learning at Somis is interdisciplinary. We strive to incorporate experiential learning that is hands-on and inquiry driven. This highly engaging methodology also provides intentional support for our English Learners. The dual intensity of both theory and practice builds the bridge between hmmm, wow, and aha!
Somis values equal portions of convergent and divergent thinking guided by caring educators who nurture reflective strategies. Learners at Somis manage their portfolios to share, to document, and to reflect on learning. We intentionally encourage creative and critical thinkers who measure their own progress by evidence of competency.
Learning extends beyond the bell. We offer STEAM learning opportunities after school and in the evenings for our Family STEAM Night series. Our aim is to make STEAM more accessible to families, demonstrate the relationship between STEAM education and future careers and to get families and communities more involved in K-8 STEAM learning.
The skills and knowledge we need today are very different than what was needed more than 120 years ago when Somis School was first designed. While memorization and uniformity helped many succeed before, today creativity, imagination, and the ability to fail and try again are essential skills to have. We aim for Somis STEAM Powered will be the next chapter as we plant anew and provide a rich learning environment using the tools we have today with always an eye on tomorrow.