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Practically Paradise
Inside Practically Paradise

What is a STEM Magnet school?

I am working with preschool through fourth grade at Hattie Cotton, 99% free and reduced lunch so very high poverty. We are a STEM (Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) magnet school so in addition to the local population, we have students who entered the lottery process for the opportunity to attend our school.

Each week scientists from Vanderbilt come to work with our students. We are all about problem solving, interactivity, creativity, and using the engineering approach to all areas of education. We are a very unique school and I am rushing to get up to speed. We don’t use worksheets. We approach everything as “little scientists” and there is great administrative support for hands-on activities. They delivered bricks, straw and sticks to the kindergarten classes last week. I simply contributed various versions of the Three Little Pigs and puppets.

Interestingly the school has about 6,919 titles – many of which are older and in poor shape. If I showed you the science collection, you’d be grasping your chest and staggering around. Students seem desperate to read and need lots of guidance in making choices. They were accustomed to choosing from baskets by series.  With no assistant, I’ll be hopping to keep these 500 students’ needs met. I’m excited at the challenge and the opportunity to provide multiple hands-on activities in the library while students are there one hour each.

In addition, I’m in charge of text books and new STEM materials, web pages, the conversion to web-based Accelerated Reader, and a few tiny activities. I won’t be bored this year.


  1. I am in a new LMS position in a school with a similar demographic and a very old book collection. I will be interested in following you & sharing ideas! I love the delivery of straw, sticks & bricks to Kindergarten. Fun!