WAXAHACHIE — Faith Family Academy in Waxahachie is undergoing a curriculum change to focus on math, art, science, technology, engineering, and research — or MASTER. The school is even expecting a name change next year to Master Faith Family Academy to better suit the new learning style.
For the MASTER program to be implemented, Faith Family Academy partnered with Project Lead the Way. Assistant superintendent of instruction and accountability, Michael Dang, said this program is heavily endorsed across the nation.
“So they have had partnerships with colleges, government organizations and they are endorsed by the Gates Foundation.” Dang added, “They have expectations. If we don’t serve it, Project Lead the Way will leave us.”
The program will be fully integrated into the curriculum by fall 2018, but for now, all Waxahachie campus teachers are trained while the board looks to see which learning kits fit best with each school subject. The program focuses on project-based learning; therefore, each school subject will take on a different aspect of the project.
“With STEAM it’s all project-based, it makes you access all different perspectives that we feel at the end of the day, no matter what the world has changed to, if you can incorporate everything from science, technology, math, art and research, then you are prepared for pretty much any type of career,” Dang explained.
Through the MASTER program, the school has created a robotics club to compete against other schools. Dang said they are the only one in the North Texas region to have a Lead the Way robotics program. This organization is the first example of how students are performing within the program.
Dang said the middle school would have classes that incorporate STEAM learning while courses at the elementary level will include just an element of the program in the learning style.
Faith Family Superintendent Dr. Mollie Purcell said, “To me that research, when I saw that, it’s just not the rote learning that the standardized test and the state-mandated tests are pushing as hard. But this really pushes the kids further into using critical thinking skills to really understand what it [topics] means.”
The charter school is using STEAM plus the “R,” so research is involved, creating a MASTER program. Purcell said this style of learning doesn’t focus more on science or arts but allows a different level of critical thinking and application.
Purcell said, “My goal is that we are going to be able to implement this at the Waxahachie campus and really build this program to its maximum capacity and then be able to duplicate it at the Oak Cliff campus. And then should we ever open another campus, make that the focus and part of what the curriculum going to be as a district.”
As of now, the program is on-track to be integrated into the learning system. The board is implementing STEAM as fast as Project Lead the Way will allow.
Purcell and Dang mentioned the students enjoy the material that’s been put in front of them so far and they are excited to be taught this way. Purcell said the parents have shown interest in the new learning techniques as well.
Dang said, “We have gifted kids and a lot of the time, school districts forget about them… I told these kids, ‘this is not going to be an easy program, but you will be challenged.'”
Purcell added, “To me, it’s providing the best education to kids, the very best of the best. We want parents to be ensured that their kids are going to be meeting standards at or above what the state’s expecting and preparing them for where they need to go to high school or college.” She added, “When people find out that kids are coming from Faith Family, they know they’ll have the academics they need and will be sought after.”