Model Program and Practices - AdVENTURE STEM Program

AdVENTURE is a 5th-8th grade STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) program housed on the Herman Intermediate campus.  Our mission is to engage all students in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics through relevant, rigorous curriculum so they will be responsible, active, global citizens in the digital age.

AdVENTURE has a culture of high expectations where students form safe and strong relationships with teachers, peers, families, and the community.  Enrollment at AdVENTURE is open to students of all ability levels who enjoy hands-on instruction and project based learning with a focus towards life and work in the 21st century. AdVENTURE’s vision is to be a school that provides students with the foundation for lifelong learning and resiliency, adept in the use of critical thinking tools and 21st century skills.

In AdVENTURE the curriculum and instruction develops 21st Century Skills such as:

• Flexibility and Adaptability: Through our project/problem based learning approach, students will learn to adapt to various roles and responsibilities and work effectively in various situations. At times they will take on the role of producer, project manager, facilitator, negotiator, etc. all in a safe environment that allows students to experiment. Their experience at AdVENTURE will help them deal positively with praise, setbacks and criticism, as well as, understand and balance diverse points of view to reach workable solutions. Students help create the rubrics that detail the expectations of their work.

•Initiative and Self-Direction: At AdVENTURE students learn to monitor, prioritize and complete projects without direct oversight. Students are able to go explore areas of interest in more depth and have opportunities to gain hands on expertise in areas they did not know they enjoyed. Students also gain the skills necessary to reflect on their learning, and go beyond the traditional curriculum.

•Social and Cross-cultural Skills: As an AdVENTURE students there are several opportunities to interact with others in meaningful ways to complete an assignment. With students working together they will learn to work effectively with people of diverse backgrounds, interests and abilities.

•Productivity and Accountability: While working together with other AdVENTURE students, they learn to set goals, plan and manage projects to achieve results. They will also learn to multitask, participate actively, and collaborate with a team. At AdVENTURE students will be held accountable for their work by their teachers and peers.

•Leadership and responsibility: As students take on leadership roles in their projects, they will develop skills to inspire others, problem solve, and act responsibly with the interests of a larger community.

The AdVENTURE STEM program supports the District LCAP goals 1,2,4 and 6. Goal 1: All students will be proficient in meeting and/or exceeding all Common Core State Standards. Goal 2: We will accelerate the academic achievement toward meeting or exceeding standards for English Learners (EL), low socioeconomic disadvantaged students, Foster Youth, and students of color, as well as increase the language proficiency for EL.  Goal 4: Students will use technology to master the 21st Century Skills of collaboration, communication, critical thinking and creativity. Oak Grove will provide innovative strategies with support for technology implementation that would enhance student learning of core academic subject knowledge, and meet technology standards.  Goal 6: We will actively engage parents and community members in supporting the implementation of Common Core State Standards instruction and provide input to program decisions.  Actions and services in these goals of the LCAP ensure program options, marketing and communication support, materials, coaching, readily-available student access to technology, parent outreach/involvement and assessment resources are a priority.

Implementation and Monitoring

AdVENTURE was developed as a school of choice/program option for our district families who were looking for a change as one size fits all is no longer sufficient to meet the needs and interests of all students and parents.  Instead of having our families and students leave the district for a charter or private school, we decided to be competitive and create our own option for families seeking something different.  We found the need to create choice and options for families where some students could better meet their potential through alternative means, such as through a hands-on project based approach with an emphasis on science, technology, engineering and math. The foundation of our curriculum and instruction is integrated project/problem based learning within a small learning community.  

Project and problem based learning supports the belief students learn by doing which engages students and gets them excited about what they are learning. The program began with the 2010 school year serving 140 students with 4 teachers.   The small learning community now serves 264 students with 10 teachers. The program has evolved over the past 9 years based on parent, student, community and teacher feedback via monthly parent meetings, class meetings and twice yearly surveys. The program has doubled in size since its establishment due to the large response and annual waitlist for open spots.  The Oak Grove School District Board of Trustees recently approved the creation of a second STEM offering in the District due to the overwhelming interest AdVENTURE has created.

The foundation of our “learn by doing” spirit is showcased four times a year through our exhibition nights.  Students complete their six week project/problem based project by creating an end product to showcase. Two of the four exhibitions allow for students to select which project they wish to showcase via presentation to the larger community.  The other two exhibition nights are our annual Charity Fair in December and our annual End of Year program wide project.  These two projects encompass all subject areas and have a direct impact to the community around us. Our charity fair project begins with students learning about charities locally and internationally.  Students investigate their charity of choice, research their practices, overheard, philanthropy, etc.  Students then present their findings to a panel via an Ignite presentation.  Students also engineer a product to sell that will benefit their charity. They then create the item and sell it at the “Fair” portion of the evening.  Last year the event raised $6,000 in 90 minutes, this year we sold out in only 60 minutes raising $5,100 for the Children’s Defense Fund.  Our students are not only learning by doing they are also impacting the community around them.

Results and Outcomes

Teachers assess student learning and progress through student work, formative and summative assessments, electronic portfolios using Google Sites, Formative, SeeSaw, Sown to Grow, blogging about assignments through Blogger, and a six week integrated unit project that the students self-select and present to community members.  The teachers also have common preps and weekly collaborative time for cycle of inquiry where they work as a professional learning community to plan, asses, refine and create their integrated units.  Through the use of Google Drive, teachers share student work, student progress, class assignments and curriculum calendars.  Using the curriculum and instruction outlined above our students have experienced greater growth than the average student in the State of California and District.  

In 2018, AdVENTURE 5th graders were 65% at or exceeding standard on the English Language Arts portion of the SBAC compared to 54% for the District. Our sixth graders were 77% at and/or exceeding standard, compared to 56% for the District.  Our seventh graders were 80% at and/or exceeding standard in ELA and in eighth grade 86% were at or exceeding standard on the SBAC.  In addition for nine years straight 100% of Adventure 8th graders met graduation requirements with 87% meeting honor roll or highest honors.  Our students have also been received national recognition through Scholastic Arts, Exploravision and Globaloria programs.

Through partnerships with local agencies such as SVEF (Silicon Valley Education Foundation), Globaloria and the Knight Foundation we were able to expand the use of technology to a complete one to one technology integration in 2013.  Through this infusion of technology, we have been able to offer students cutting edge programs such our four distinct technology electives beginning with computer science in 5th grade (Microsoft Office, Google Docs, GameStar Mechanics), Coding and Game Design in 6th grade (Google Drive, Edmodo, Code.org, Globaloria), Digital Journalism/Video Production in 7th grade (quarterly publishing of our online newspaper Patriot Power) and Engineering in  8th grade (Exploravision).  

Our program has been the model STEM program not only in our county but also in the state and nationally.  Our administrative team and teaching staff have been asked to present for the California Department of Education, at the National STEM conference, the CETPA (California Educators and Teaching Professionals Association) and STEMposim on our best practice and use of technology.  We have been visited by over 21 school districts including a visit by 40 teachers from Central and South America.  Google, Cisco, Adobe, Microsoft, NASA, San Jose Mercury News and other local businesses have also visited our program.  Most recently, the National Teacher of the Year program selected AdVENTURE as a spot on their tour of cutting edge programs. We have been nationally recognized for our best practices and have been recognized annually for our teachers, students and administrators.  Five of our teachers have been awarded the Santa Clara County Texas Instrument STEM Teacher of the Year award. The program was recognized in 2015 with the Glenn Hoffman Award from the Santa Clara County School Board Association for being an exemplary program.