Congratulations to Beverly Hills STEM Elementary School for being recognized as a North Carolina STEM School of Distinction!

This neighborhood K-5 school is home to nearly 350 students who live and breathe STEM every day and teachers who can’t imagine teaching another way.

Megan Charlton, STEM Coach at Beverly Hills (as well as for a local middle school), has seen this small school on the edge of Concord’s downtown blossom into a desirable destination and a perfect fit for students across the socio-economic and academic spectrums.

“As a small neighborhood school, we’re trying to ensure we’re making a difference with each student,” says Charlton. “No matter their background or skillset, we encourage them to embrace STEM and continue with it throughout their education.” She describes students who struggled in previous schools thriving at Beverly Hills because STEM provides a hands-on environment where kids engage like never before. Because STEM isn’t just one class a day but the philosophy that drives everything they do, the kids are taught to bring problem solving, project-based skills to every challenge they face.

Students who had previously learned in a traditional setting are rolling up their sleeves and taking on projects like constructing a city of the future where they learn about not only engineering and site planning but government and civics. They’re building their own labs that need to be designed, stocked, and maintained. And fifth graders used Makey Makey technology to code an Operation game that helped them research, study, and teach anatomy—and actually buzz when a student “doctor” made an error.

She notes that not only has the embrace of the STEM philosophy had a measurable positive effect on students’ test scores, it has completely transformed how students learn everything from science and math to language and art. “We teach them the engineering design cycle to problem solve. We ask the question, and they imagine their solution. They develop their plan of action, cycle through the process, and at the end, improve on their design. We’ve had kids who’ve gone through the program—kids who are in college—who say they STILL use this process to improve themselves and their work.”

Likewise, building the curriculum around STEM has endeared teachers to the school. Charlton says that teachers (her included) can’t imagine teaching another way now. “Teachers are all in. Where other districts are losing teachers, our turnaround is very low year to year. We really are a family now.” It’s no surprise then that Charlton describes the School of Distinction application as a team effort that would not have succeeded without teachers providing narratives and photographs, and bringing such positivity to the all-important site visit.

So, what makes Beverly Hills so special? Charlton had a lot to say on this matter but began with, “Teaching kids that it’s possible to move on from their current circumstances or challenge. That there are jobs out there just for them, even if they can’t imagine them yet.” With obvious pride in both the teachers who lead and the students who follow, she concluded by saying, “We teach them how to survive in the real world. How to communicate. How to pay attention when you aren’t really interested in a subject. The little things that you have to teach students…how to act, how to process things, how to work in a team. These are the life skills we’re teaching our kids and embedding in their hearts and minds to ensure they’re successful in the future.”