Building a STEM Culture

Cognia STEM Certified Logo

STEM Instructional Coaches

Callie Painter
Alex Goldberg

Jefferson’s Journey

In 2014, Oak Ridge Schools announced its plan to become the premier STEM school district in the nation, and since then Jefferson Middle School has been working fervently to make that a reality.  As a demonstration of teacher support for this system-wide initiative, JMS created a STEM Innovators team, who along with our STEM coaches, attended training led by a Discovery Education coach who provided individual mentoring and coaching in STEM instructional practices. Jefferson Middle School was AdvancED STEM certified in 2017 and the Oak Ridge School District was AdvancED STEM certified in 2018.  JMS was recertified in November 2020 becoming the first school in Tennessee to be recertified by Cognia.


Jefferson is working everyday to contribute to the ongoing need for students who are ready to enter the workforce familiar with STEM careers and requirements. Students interact with their teachers using Canvas for assignments, messages, group discussions, exit tickets, and they can review grades.  We share videos and stories about STEM professions and STEM contributors from throughout history on TVs positioned in accessible areas to the student body.  For the past five years, with the implementation of the balanced calendar, during fall and spring breaks, students attended enrichment events at school in STEM related fields such as coding and using 3D printers and pens.  JMS has participated in the Hour of Code to help promote coding as a possible career path.  These school-wide activities promote STEM and help grow a student body knowledgeable about a multitude of STEM careers.  One of the initiatives after our original certification was to revise the course opportunities for 7th and 8th graders.  These classes include a STEM rotation, career explorations, Advanced Manufacturing/Aeronautics, Introduction to Marketing/Business, and Geographic Information Systems.  Our 8th graders can then continue to the next level in those areas or take a diversified tech class. The Advanced Manufacturing/Aeronautics class progresses to the high school as well.

We believe that an effective STEM school motivates and cultivates an interest in STEM subjects.  The Lego League, Math Club, and SECME, are just a few of the extracurricular activities available to all students at JMS. The science department has added an Environmental Club, and classes visit the Wetlands surrounding our building on a regular basis.  Our teachers write grants to procure STEM related materials such as mapping software, Makerspace kits, 3D pens and printers, iPads with math and ELA games, science equipment, remote learning platforms, and Breakout Boxes.

Our STEM coaches and PLC coaches provide teacher in-service opportunities to help teachers understand how to implement collaborative and meaningful lessons using the STEM tools and materials available to them.  Furthermore, our entire staff receives ongoing training in STEM.

JMS continues to send students to regional competitions in STEM fields and gives all students of every background a chance to succeed.  Finally, JMS earned a Blue Ribbon in 2007 for excellence.  We continue to grow and learn using STEM as a guide to helping achieve our mission. This growth helped us to become a Reward School in 2019.


STEAM Related Opportunities at JMS

The information below provides a brief overview of some of the programs offered at JMS that support Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics (STEAM) instruction.  We encourage you to check out our Curriculum Guide that offers a more detailed description for each grade level as well as videos from the teachers that discuss more about these programs.

Library Makerspace

The JMS Makerspace, Eagle Labs, was established to support the STEM needs students at JMS.  The library is the perfect place to house the Makerspace because it allows every student the opportunity to access and use the items.  The items available to students range from low tech to high tech.  Our low-tech offerings include TEGU blocks, KEVA planks, button-makers, Lego Wall, Perler Beads, Origami, art supplies, and many more hands-on items.  Our high-tech offerings include Osmo games, 3D pens, Cricut, Makey Makes, and Little Bits. Also in our high tech offerings are robots like Dash, Dot, Cue, and Ozobots. Included in Eagle Labs is many opportunities for filming and recording. We have three spaces set up for recording video and audio with or without a green screen.  We have iPads, media specific apps, microphones, lights and a Podcaster.

STEM Rotation Classes

Beginning in the 6th grade, Jefferson students begin a new class called STEM Rotation.  This is a term course.  It enables students to develop technology literacy skills. Students are informed about space and space technology.  Each student will build a rocket from paper materials and launch it the last week of class.  They then continue in 7th grade where students will learn to utilize the 9 step design process as the students will be challenged to solve problems.  The problem solving system along with hands on projects like the balsa bridge and tower will be our projects.  Finally, as students enter the 8th grade, the class teaches students technology literacy skills.  Students are taught 3-Dimensional Software Skills and in a research and development unit, students design and build CO2 cars. CO2 cars are raced the last week of class.

Aviation & Aeronautics

The Oak Ridge school district administration and staff have recognized the importance of aviation to our city’s future, and want to expose our students to a wide variety of career possibilities within this field.  We have begun this journey by introducing a new Career Exploration in Aviation course at Jefferson Middle School. In this course, students are introduced to a wide variety of career options in the field such as air traffic control, private and commercial airline pilots, craft design, and a wide variety of applications for unmanned aircraft.  This course can seamlessly articulate into a STEM Engineering, Transportation-Automotive & Aviation, and/or Navy JROTC program courses.   Students in this course will learn to design and fly model airplanes and drones, and then work up to creating and flying drones that capture images for a wide variety of applications, as mentioned above.

Portrait of a Graduate Rotation

Portrait of a Graduate is an introductory course designed to assist students in discovering their personal strengths and abilities. They will explore various career clusters, and practice employability skills such as collaboration, communication, creativity, and critical thinking (the 4Cs). Technical skills are included such as interviewing and resume writing. Academic skills are emphasized in multiple core subjects including science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM), reading, writing, and digital literacy. Students will learn strategies for building socio-emotional skills such as self-awareness, initiative, adaptability, and accountability. The Oak Ridge Schools Portrait of a Graduate is a roadmap to prepare all students for college, career, and life success. Special emphasis will be placed on existing College, Career, and Technical Education (CCTE) pathways that make up our academies at Oak Ridge High School, and are designed to prepare our future graduates for continued learning and work in a post-secondary setting.


Virtual Reality Room

STEAM Art Exhibit

JMS Drone Flyover

Flight Simulator