Kingsley Elementary has become the first STEAM certified school in Dunwoody. The certification shows the school is dedicated to teaching about science, technology, engineering, arts and math and allowing students to do hands-on projects.

Most other schools in state are certified for STEM, which does not include art.

Kingsley Elementary Vice Principal Tyra Harris-Thompson holds the school’s new STEAM signage. (Special)

“We wanted to do something unique,” teacher Romilia Human said about deciding to go the extra step to add art certification.

Getting the STEAM certification is similar process to achieving STEM, but “definitely more work” because the school has to show commitment to arts programs as well, Human said. The school does frequent plays, musical performances and art shows that helped them achieve the certification, she said.

“It’s a total shift in the way kids learn,” Human said. “It creates a sense of community and of being proud for obtaining this certification.”

Students have done projects on ocean pollution, creating a clean-up machine, and earthquakes, which involved creating a seismograph and a structure to withstand shakes. The projects are meant to connect to the “real world” and delve into problems, Human said.

“The kids enjoy it because it’s hands on,” Human said.

Kingsley received the certification through AdvancED, an accreditation agency, which charges a fee. But the Georgia Department of Education also provides a different certification for free.

The STEAM certification does not provide new curriculum or any tangible benefits, but shows that the programs are important to the school, Kinglsey Principal Melanie Pearch said.

Kingsley achieved the certification May 8, according to a district press release. DeKalb Schools Superintendent R. Stephen Green said the certification shows the “world that our students are tomorrow’s tech gurus, CIOs, and cybersecurity experts.”

“The dedication, passion, and determination shown by teachers and staff in completing such an effort deserves commendation from both the district and the community at large,” Green said in a press release about the certification. “We’re providing the 21st-century skills needed to make a difference.”

Certification is long process with creating websites, showing evidence of meeting standards and school visits from accreditors.

“It takes a village. The parents have to buy in, the teachers have to buy in,” Pearch said. “You can’t shove it down teachers’ throats.”

The PTO also provided support, paying for new signage and helped do classroom art and music room upgrades to meet standards, Stephenie Gordon, the organization president, said.

“Our entire school has been working tirelessly to make this possible and we are very proud!” Gordon said.

The district paid the certification costs required by AdvancED, Pearch said. DeKalb Schools said an open records request would have to be submitted to obtain how much the district paid.

Meghan Frick, a Georgia Department of Education spokesperson, said its certification is free for schools. The process requires similar steps of evaluations and requiring evidence from schools it meets the criteria.