​Israeli Visitors Tour Putnam County School District

Israeli Visitors Tour Putnam County School District

As part of a tour of northeast Florida’s educational science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) programs, a delegation of 16 educators from Israel visited the Putnam County school district Tuesday.

A group of educators from Israel met with Putnam County School District administrators Tuesday to learn about the district's STEM programs.

STEM2 Hub, a Jacksonville-based non-profit organization committed to accelerating the growth of STEM education and careers, arranged for the Israeli administrators and principals to visit Putnam.

At the C.L. Overturf, Jr. District Center in Palatka, Michael Helms, the district’s STEM specialist, gave  a presentation on the STEM programs offered in district schools, including robotics, computer science, engineering and drone technology and artificial intelligence programming.

Michael Helms, STEM specialist for the Putnam County School District, gives a presentation about the district's STEM programs for visiting Israeli educators Tuesday at the C.L. Overturf, Jr. District Center.

At Moseley Elementary School, the visitors observed small groups of third graders using Code.org with Michelle Stradling, a paraprofessional, to learn how to program computers and robots and how to build electronic circuits. They also watched sixth graders in Shannon Thigpen’s class coding robots and developing original electronic games. 

Moseley Elementary School third grade students show the electronic circuit boards they are working on to visiting Israeli educators Tuesday.

Moseley Elementary School third grade students show the electronic games and robots they are working on to visiting Israeli educators Tuesday.

Moriah Shapira, an educator from Israel, discusses computer coding with two Moseley Elementary School sixth grade students Tuesday.

At Q.I. Roberts Jr.-Sr. High School student Brandon Stouffer demonstrated a flight simulator used in Col. Daniel Lewandowski’s Aerospace classes, virtually piloting a plane taking off from and returning to land at the Palatka airport.

Brandon Stouffer, a junior at Q.I. Roberts Jr.-Sr. High School demonstrates a flight simulator for educators from Israel Tuesday.

Col. Daniel Lewandowski, a teacher at Q.I. Roberts Jr.-Sr. High School, talks about his aerospace classes to a group of visiting Israeli educators Tuesday at the school.

Lewandowski explained the drone technology used in the program, while teacher Chris Cantrell discussed his classes on artificial intelligence and computer science.

Chris Cantrell, a teacher at Q.I. Roberts Jr.-Sr. High School, discusses his artificial intelligence and computer science classes with visiting Israeli educators.

Q.I. Principal Joe Theobold told the delegation that these types of programs would not be possible without the support of many community, business and educational partners.

Hilit Finkelstein, who does research and development for schools in Israel, said she found the tour of the two schools inspiring. 

“It is amazing the connection between the industry and the schools, and that the schools have very specific goals for the students,” Finkelstein said. “The schools know they want the students to achieve whatever they need to in order to be prepared for the future. They are giving them the ability and tools to figure that out. It’s amazing because we have a lot of schools in Israel, and this is a challenge we face all of the time. How to help the students be whatever they want to be.”

“Our district was honored to host the delegation from Israel,” said Dr. Rick Surrency, superintendent of Putnam County Schools. “Principals from Israel learned how the Putnam County School District implements our K-12 STEM curriculum for students. We would love to learn from them in the future with the continued sharing of best practices.”

Dr.Kathleen Schofield, executive director of STEM2 Hub, said the highlight of the group’s northeast Florida tour was visiting Putnam County. 

“Everything that they saw in their other visits is really being inspired by Dr. Surrency and his leadership in Putnam County,” she said. “The changes that he is making and the programs that are being offered here are truly life-changing, and system changing, assuring that all students have access to opportunities to be ready for the technology-intensive future.”

Dr. Melissa Coleman, executive director of Federal Programs and Instructional Acceleration, said the district partnering with organizations like STEM2 Hub is key to increasing educational opportunities for students throughout the district.

“Dr. Schofield and STEM2 Hub have been invaluable in helping us provide STEM resources that would not be otherwise available to our students,” she said. “With them, we are able to ensure that our students have access to technology and programs that are being used throughout the world.”