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Stripling Elementary Sets Sights on STEM Certification



Following the established rubric, Principal Molly McAuliffe is confident that Stripling Elementary will be able to add the STEM seal.

The World Economic Forum, a not-for-profit foundation headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland focusing on entrepreneurship, recently cited three critical skills students will need for tomorrow’s work world: problem-solving, collaboration and adaptability.

Those broad concepts can be challenging to come by. That’s why many education institutions lean toward a STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) curriculum.

In Georgia, STEM and STEAM (the ‘A’ stands for arts) education is an integrated curriculum driven by exploratory project-based learning and student-centered development of ideas and solutions.

How a STEM curriculum impacts the community

Stripling Elementary Principal Molly McAuliffe was aware of the benefits such an educational focus can have for all students, especially her student body of 800. With 84% of them qualifying for free or reduced-price lunch, it is a Title I school.

That means the Georgia Department of Education provides technical assistance, resources and program monitoring to ensure all children have a “significant opportunity to receive a fair, equitable and high-quality education and to close educational achievement gaps.”

“We like to say that [free and reduced-price lunch] classification is about how students pay for their meals. It has nothing to do with how they learn,” McAuliffe said. “Our goal is to provide a high-quality education for all students. And we believe here at Stripling Elementary that our kids can do anything they put their minds to.”

Located in the Norcross Cluster, Stripling Elementary serves families from Peachtree Corners and Norcross. The school has had a close relationship with Paul Duke STEM High School and Norcross High School.

“We’ve had student leaders from both schools come over and sort of mentor our kids in different ways,” said McAuliffe.

The Norcross Robotics team was involved with the school’s STEM night in the past, and Paul Duke students who are part of the Society of Black Engineers have put together learning sessions for the elementary kids.

“Paul Duke also has a mentoring program this year where they work with third-grade students,” she said. “They come over on Fridays and mentor some of our third graders to get them excited about school and learning and specifically about what they can learn in the STEM fields.”

A worthwhile endeavor

With a student appetite for a new kind of learning, McAuliffe and her staff decided to become one of the few STEM-certified elementary schools in the county. Of Gwinnett County’s 88 elementary schools, three have state STEM certification.

“We looked at [our school mission] as a team and updated it this past summer with our instructional leadership team. When we looked at our vision about students becoming responsible, empathetic and driven world-class leaders, we thought about how we can achieve that,” said McAuliffe.

Rebecca Phillips

“Things like encouraging effective communication, critical thinking and innovative problem solving among our student body were at the forefront,” she added.

McAuliffe said that the school’s science director shared a fascinating statistic recently: 65% of the jobs that their students are going to be doing …do not yet exist.

“We can’t be giving them specific facts or figures or little bits of knowledge. That is not going to help them. What will help them is if they know how to think critically, problem solve, be creative and effectively communicate with one another.”

Those are all components of a STEM-based curriculum.

Assistant Principal Frank Rodriguez and teacher Rebecca Phillips, now the school’s STEM coordinator, agreed to take on the STEM specials class and lead the initiative for the school.

“We’re at the beginning of this process, and we know it’s going to take about three to five years for us to get the STEM certification from the state,” said McAuliffe. “We know it’s challenging, but we also believe our kids deserve it.”

Getting students engaged

As the STEM specials teacher, Phillips said she gets the “absolute wonderful privilege of teaching every single student in the school. Just to see the kids spark up and get excited about the problems around us in the world, and maybe coming up with some solutions to solve them, is really what drives me.”

STEM uses project-based learning where children are encouraged to use their natural curiosity and creativity to solve problems.

“Kids that might just be sitting in the back of the classroom kind of bored and not interested get engaged when they have something that they can relate to and want to solve because, I think, kids in general just want to solve problems,” said Phillips.

“They’re much more creative than adults, in my opinion, and they’re able to break out of that box that sometimes we get put into,” she elaborated.

She said this is especially true for non-native English speakers since project-based learning requires students to work in groups.

“It requires them to communicate, and then it gives them so much more of a desire to work to acquire that English language,” said Phillips. “I watch them being so brave and working through that kind of quiet phase a little bit more quickly because they are dying to express themselves and communicate with their teammates.”

The classes use grade-level-appropriate problems — and the students work out solutions. Recently, fifth graders were working with magnets when a student realized their STEM education could help a real-world issue.

“One kid’s dad would always get flat tires. He worked in construction and there are always nails around,” said Rodriguez. “He invented a machine that used magnets to pick up the nails in the parking area.”

Bringing staff on board

Although Stripling Elementary has just one teacher dedicated solely to STEM, it’s a concept that covers just about every subject.

“Right now, we have been trying to get more teachers involved in the STEM process,” said Phillips.

She employs the same techniques with educators that she uses to keep the kids engaged. For the past few months, several teachers have volunteered for what they call “sip and STEM” sessions.

“In October, we took on a Halloween theme and added flavored syrups like peach and blueberry to a base of Sprite,” she said. “We gave them names like Dragon’s Blood.”

Phillips also gave teachers and administrators a STEM challenge — how one might use light to scare people in a haunted house.

“She taught us quickly how to build a circuit to light up light bulbs. Then she gave us cardboard boxes and a lot of fun materials like aluminum foil. We had to build the circuit and get it to light up in 40 minutes,” said McAuliffe.

Those kinds of sharing experiences drive the point home and bring the other staffers — teachers and non-teaching staff — into the world of STEM.

“We’re still in the process of learning all of the steps we’re going to need to go through,” said McAuliffe. “But we have submitted an intent to seek certification form with the State Department of Education.”

Following the established rubric, McAuliffe is confident that Stripling Elementary will be able to add the STEM seal to its school accomplishments before the end of the decade.

Arlinda Smith Broady is part of the Boomerang Generation of Blacks that moved back to the South after their ancestors moved North. With approximately three decades of journalism experience (she doesn't look it), she's worked in tiny, minority-based newsrooms to major metropolitans. At every endeavor she brings professionalism, passion, pluck, and the desire to spread the news to the people.

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International Charter Academy of Georgia’s Japan Day at the Capitol [+ PHOTOS]



International Charter Academy of Georgia students hosting "Japan Day" at the Georgia State Capitol

International Charter Academy of Georgia, located in Norcross, GA, offers a dual language education for students from kindergarten through fifth grade.

On January 23, 2024, International Charter Academy hosted a “Japan Day at the Capitol,” during which 20 students from fourth and fifth grade were selected to sing a variety of songs in both English and Japanese.

Ms. Norika Harada conducted the performance with assistant Ms. Mayuko Nelson, while Governor Brian Kemp and Consul General of Japan Mio Maedawatched on.

Kemp and Maeda recognized the school and the students performing as well as the 50th anniversary of the Consulate General of Japan’s office in Atlanta just before the performance.

During the performance, the students performed “If You’re Happy and You Know It,” “My Country Home,” “My Grandfather’s Clock,” and “It’s a Small World.”

Many families, supporters and businesses attended the event to support International Charter Academy of Georgia on this special occasion.

Photos by Peachtree Corners Magazine

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Peachtree Corners Business Association (PCBA) Accepting Scholarship Applications



Focused students studying in the park // Image by Freepik

The Peachtree Corners Business Association (PCBA) has announced its annual scholarship opportunity for local high school seniors who demonstrate community spirit and initiative. 

The scholarship program was established to raise awareness among high school students, of the need to give back to the local community and schools.

Applications are now being accepted for the 2023 to 2024 Student Scholarship Program.  The PCBA will award two $1,000 scholarships to deserving graduating high school seniors.

Students are invited to apply now by completing the Scholarship Application through midnight on Mar. 7, 2024.  Submit the complete application by Mar. 1, 2024 to enter a special raffle.

Applications should be emailed to scholarship@peachtreecornersba.com.

Sealed Transcripts may be sent to the PCBA office at:
4989 Peachtree Parkway Suite 200
Peachtree Corners, GA  30092.

Click Here for the Current Scholarship Application for Eligible Graduating Seniors


Must be a senior and at least one of the following to qualify:

  • Resident of Peachtree Corners
  • Senior at Norcross HS, Wesleyan HS, Paul Duke HS, or Duluth HS
  • Child of PCBA Member

Applications must include the application form, a copy of the student’s sealed or official transcript showing cumulative GPA, and essay of 500 words or less describing why they are the best candidate for the scholarship.

The essay must include three things the student has learned that they believe will help them in the future and a separate page listing any of the following the student has been associated with, and give a brief description of their involvement with:

  • School Organization Affiliation
  • Sports Affiliation and Extra-Curricular Activities
  • Areas of Community Involvement
  • Personal time donated to Charitable/Humanitarian causes
  • Activities completed or participated in to support the community, healthcare workers, first responders, and others.

“The PCBA is proud to continue this scholarship opportunity, which recognizes local students who have positively impacted the community,” said Donna Linden, PCBA Board member. 

“In previous years, we were impressed at the dedication to community service we saw from applicants. We look forward to honoring the deserving students who receive these scholarships, especially during these challenging times” shared Linden. 

Funds for the scholarships are raised throughout the year from PCBA membership, sponsorship, and our annual charity event.

For questions regarding the scholarship program, please email scholarship@peachtreecornersba.com.

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International Charter School of Georgia Opens 2024-2025 Enrollment Period



International Charter Academy of Georgia's Mochitsuki Rice Pounding

The State Charter School Commission (SCSC) of Georgia has expressed its intent to extend the contract with the International Charter Academy of Georgia (ICAGeorgia) for an additional five years.

This renewal decision stems from ICAGeorgia’s track record of academic excellence and community engagement. The forthcoming approval of the school’s plan to introduce a Grade 6 middle school further shows ICAGeorgia’s commitment to growth and development.

Established in 2018, ICAGeorgia has achieved a “Content Mastery” score of 91.4%, placing it in the top 18% among all elementary schools in Georgia.

Notably, the school has a student mathematics score of 98.28%, showcasing its dedication to academic achievement.

ICAGeorgia sets itself apart through its Japanese teaching approach, prioritizing problem-solving skills over rote memorization, coupled with a high-quality dual-language curriculum.

ICAGeorgia’s Japanese calligraphy activities

The school’s commitment to maintaining a diverse student body, selecting and retaining exceptional teachers and engaging students in global cultural activities has been crucial to its academic success.

Signature events such as the rice pounding festival (Mochitsuki), Japanese calligraphy (Kakizome), Hispanic Week and Black History Month enrich the educational experience.

ICAGeorgia’s Japanese calligraphy activities

The involvement of parents and teachers in local festivals, including the Peachtree Corners Children Festival, Atlanta JapanFest and Japan Day at the Georgia State Capitol, underscores ICAGeorgia’s dedication to community engagement and service.

The school enjoys robust support from the Consulate General of Japan in Atlanta and collaborates with organizations like the Japan-America Society of Georgia and the Japanese Chamber of Commerce of Georgia.

Enrollment is open now for school year 2024 to 2025. Learn more here or email Jessica Kennett Cork, Secretary of the Governing Board for ICAGeorgia at j.cork@internationalcharteracademy.org.

Photos courtesy of Jessica Kennett Cork and the International Charter Academy of Georgia.

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