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This School in Springfield, TN, Is STEAM-ing With Success

A popular (and growing) magnet school in Robertson County is preparing students for in-demand careers.

By Kevin Litwin on May 6, 2022

The Innovation Academy, a STEAM magnet program at Springfield Middle School in Tennessee.
Jeff Adkins

Next-level, STEAM-heavy, career-oriented – these are just a few ways one might describe Robertson County’s Innovation Academy (iA), a program housed in Springfield Middle School for students in grades six through nine. As the only magnet school in Robertson County, this program, which provides students with hands-on, technology-based activities, has become quite popular to students and their parents since it opened for the 2016-17 school year.

We sat down with Maureen Henderson, STEAM magnet coordinator at iA, to get the 4-1-1 on this must-attend magnet school and all it has to offer.

What is STEAM?

This innovative learning approach incorporates science, technology, engineering, arts and math in helping students develop the skills needed for tomorrow’s jobs.

How are students chosen to attend the Innovation Academy?

This is a lottery-based application program. If there are more applicants than available seats, applicants who qualify academically are put in a lottery. A total of 60% of our enrollment is made up of scholars (students) living in what is called the local iA Zone, while 40% are from out of zone – surrounding Robertson County communities. It makes for a nice melting pot of scholars coming together.

What is the current enrollment?

We have 100 scholars per grade level, and the teacher-student ratio in grades seven, eight and nine is about 1:25. The ratio for sixth grade is about 1:20.

The Innovation Academy shares a campus with Springfield Middle School, but this will eventually change, correct?

Yes. The current Springfield Middle School students in grades seven and eight will all graduate to high school over the next two years, then Innovation Academy will occupy the entire building. We will do renovations and expansions once the building is entirely Innovation Academy.

Jeff Adkins

Are there plans to increase enrollment?

Yes. We currently are grades six through nine, and we will add another grade each year until we are a six through 12 magnet school by the 2024-25 school year.

What do students learn at the academy?

We feature project-based learning with our scholars, which involves hands-on, real life-connected activities. For example, sixth-graders recently learned about alternative energy by creating models of solar panels and wind turbines. Another example is that our scholars designed raised garden beds, and we brought in experts from Corbin Creek Greenhouse, South Central Growers and the University of Tennessee Extension Agriculture Office to judge the projects.

Does the academy offer clubs?

There are many. We have a great robotics club that has won many awards and competitions, and our Epic Players drama club is excellent. We have a phenomenal band and choir, along with a fantastic science lab. I love popping in to visit classrooms and clubs each day to see what amazing things the kids are working on.

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