Christiana Middle designated county’s first STE(A)M school

May 16, 2023

Rutherford County Schools

A three-year pursuit has paid off, and students at Christiana Middle School will reap the rewards.  

Christiana Middle School has been named the first Rutherford County STE(A)M-designated school.

The Tennessee STEM Innovation Network and the Tennessee Department of Education Innovation made the announcement today at a statewide STEM summit being held at the Music City Center in Nashville. 

In the education world, STEM is an acronym that stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, and it is used to describe academic programs centered around those fields. Some also use the acronym “STE(A)M,” which is the same type of program, but the extra “A” stands for Arts.

The Tennessee STEM Innovation Network names various schools annually who have met the requirements to become either a STEM- or STE(A)M-designated school. It is a three-year, rigorous application process to earn either designation, and schools must demonstrate they have baked the principles of STEM or STE(A)M into the fabric of their school culture. 

Last year, Smyrna Elementary School became the first Rutherford County school to earn the STEM designation. Christiana Middle now becomes the first to do so for STE(A)M. 

The Christiana Middle team chose to pursue the STE(A)M designation, as opposed to STEM, because they wanted additional opportunities for students, Principal Dr. Kyle Nix said. 

“The foundation of Christiana Middle School is the Christiana community, and it is important to us that our programs include the needs of all community members,” Nix explained. “STE(A)M, which includes aspects of science, technology, engineering, the arts, and mathematics, is all-encompassing. Our STE(A)M program aims at creating well-rounded students who are prepared for success in middle school, high school, and post-secondary opportunities.”

As part of the designation, the school will now serve as a model for other schools who wish to add STE(A)M programming and opportunities. 

The school will also receive $35,000 in funding from TSIN that will be used to provide additional programming for students and training for teachers to further the STE(A)M opportunities offered at the school. 

The faculty at Christiana Middle have spent countless hours in professional development and integrating problem-solving into the curriculum.

The school has “STE(A)M Thursdays, for example, which includes dedicated times for each class to work on their projects with teachers.

Students in each grade level were given challenges — such as designing a sustainable irrigation system for an area with limited sources of water — and then would use the “Engineering Design Process” to form a solution. 

“I am honored to have worked with Dr. Nix and her faculty over the past couple of years as they carried out a well thought out plan for STE(A)M Designation,” said Stephanie Finley, RCS Middle School Science and STEM specialist. “Dr. Nix and her leadership team have created a culture of problem-solving, critical-thinking, and real-world connections centered around community. This prestigious accolade is well deserved. I can’t wait to see what Christiana Middle has in store for our district over the next five years as the first STE(A)M-designated school.”

Christiana Middle has also been selected as one of the schools Rutherford County Schools will use to launch the district’s new Ion initiative. Ion schools will offer specialized curriculum and will be open to students countywide to apply for enrollment. 

Christiana’s specialized program will be STE(A)M, Principal Nix said, and the new designation solidifies the school’s expertise in that academic area. 

Director of Schools Dr. Jimmy Sullivan congratulated the Christiana Middle community for earning the accomplishment. 

“I commend Dr. Nix, our Christiana Middle staff, students, parents, and the entire Christiana community as receiving this designation involves much work and dedication,” Sullivan said. “We are very proud of CHMS and are excited how this STE(A)M designation will continue to enhance the educational opportunities we provide in Rutherford County.”