Archived Story

Progress continues on Holton school

Published 9:33am Friday, September 14, 2012

Jean McDermott

Holton principal

The walls of I.J. Holton Intermediate School continue to emerge into the skyscape on the east side of town along Fourth Avenue SE. Foundations have been set, rooms are taking shape, window openings are appearing, and the “big picture” is becoming apparent as crews make their way around each section of the new building.

Four months ago, on May 14, the first earth was turned at the groundbreaking for the new fifth- and sixth-grade intermediate school. A roof will be in place by November to keep out the elements. The winter will be spent constructing classrooms, computer labs, music areas, a tech café and collaborative student and teacher work spaces. Programming is being refined and equipment purchased with a STEAM focus. Teachers are participating in training and planning in collaboration with the University of Minnesota and a number of community partners. The I.J. Holton Intermediate School will be open for students and teachers in August of 2013. What will we see happening inside those newly constructed walls next fall?

For years, Austin Public Schools has recognized the need to prepare its students for a rapidly changing world. In response, I.J. Holton teachers are working to re-adapt curriculum to focus more on preparing students in the concepts of science, technology, engineering and math — often referred to as STEM. In addition, we are also adding an arts component to this approach, turning STEM into a standards-based STEAM program.

As teachers redefine their curriculum, they will emphasize how science, technology, engineering, math and the arts relate to each other, while also integrating STEAM concepts as part of students assignments.

Research shows students will have a deeper understanding of course material if the concepts are addressed in a variety of curriculum content areas. When the STEAM program is fully developed, there will be a number of well-established, highly refined interdisciplinary projects and other standards-based learning activities for students that integrate:


—Creative expression and problem solving

—Use of technology and engineering processes

—Understanding of relevant societal realities

With an eye toward 2013, all of the district’s intermediate school teachers are planning ways to implement a STEAM curriculum for their students. Representatives of all five schools that will move teachers to IJ Holton have formed a STEAM Leadership Team — a District-wide planning task force — to ensure coordination in program development so that all fifth- and sixth-grade students benefit from enhancements of the program. The STEAM team is also developing and exploring a variety of community partnerships drawing on the talents of local companies and organizations to help schools implement a program with real world value for students.

I look forward to sharing more information about STEAM and the progress of our new school throughout the upcoming school year. Thank you to our forward-thinking community for providing such a timely opportunity to the children of our school district.

Watch for future articles to look at “Why STEAM?” and each of the individual components of STEAM.

Jean McDermott is principal of IJ Holton Intermediate School:, 507-460-184

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