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Superintendent's News

Posted: March 8, 2024

The Innovative Work Happening at APS

In his weekly message, Superintendent Scott Elder takes a look at the APS Education Foundation’s Best in Class nominees.

Superintendent Scott Elder learns about Roosevelt Middle School's Smart Farm Project.

Superintendent Scott Elder learns about Roosevelt Middle School's Smart Farm Project.

What do Esports, archery, and a SMART Farm/Engineering Club have in common?

They’re innovative programs that engage students, and they’re all vying for top status at next month’s Gold Bar ceremony.

APS Esports, Middle School Leadership Program for Archery 3D, and Roosevelt Middle School for SMART Farm/Engineering Club are the APS Education Foundation’s Best in Class nominees for 2024. They’re competing against one another for $15,000 in funding, and the community gets to pick the winner.

The Best in Class program rewards projects that are succeeding and helps them build on their success. The way it works is simple. The foundation invites APS employees to apply for funding for innovative projects and provides lots of small grants. Grant recipients are given time to implement their projects and invited to share their successes with the foundation.

The Board of Directors Disbursement Committee then takes a look at what they’ve been able to do with the grant and chooses three each year as Best in Class nominees based on the project’s impact and growth since receiving money from the foundation.

Make no mistake, all three of these nominees are already winners and will receive funding to continue their work. The program that comes in second will receive a $10,000 check while the one that comes in third will walk away with $5,000.

Just as important as the funding, in my view, is the recognition that these programs are making a difference and motivating students to show up to school every day.

APS Esports

We launched APS Esports in 2019 as a gender-neutral activity focused on engagement, equity, and inclusion. The Success Grant the program received in 2019 allowed it to cover fees for students participating in the New Mexico Activities Association State Esports Championship Finals.

Those running our esports program note that “esports became a growing and thriving tool for student engagement and social emotional learning, while fostering STEM tech skills that would lead to college and career readiness.” They add that it builds confidence, provides a space where students feel safe, and where they can learn, lead, and grow.

The program, which initially had 100 students, now serves more than 1,200. If it wins Best in Class, it plans to use the money to continue growing and expanding by purchasing Nintendo Switches and other equipment for middle and elementary schools. Those schools currently rely on grants and fundraising efforts to purchase gaming equipment. They’d also like to provide scholarships for graduating seniors.

Middle School Leadership Program for Archery 3D

This archery program was initially only offered in the Middle School Leadership Programs. It quickly evolved and has now been implemented into all APS JROTC programs.

“Together we have established a program that focuses on collaboration,” the program’s organizers say. “Utilizing the teaching, coaching, and mentorship methods, we are building bonds between the mid-school cadets and high school cadets. Moreover, we have taken this program to the community, hosting events inviting archery programs from all over the state to compete in categories from 4th – 12th grade.”

They also note that APS archers have represented Albuquerque and New Mexico at the national level for the past three years. The program seeks to open its doors to all students and to encourage any student willing to try archery to do so. Organizers say more than 5,000 students are impacted by the program, up from 3,5000 in 2021.

If the program wins Best in Class, it plans to buy more equipment and supplies to allow it to get bows into the hands of more APS students.

Roosevelt Middle School for SMART Farm/Engineering Club

The middle schoolers in this program aren’t content to stand by while others search for solutions to world problems like climate change, overpopulation, dwindling habitats, and the challenges facing food production for the future. The Roosevelt Engineering Club, an extension of the school’s engineering elective classes, designed electric vehicles, rockets, bridges, towers, various wind turbines, and even delivered extensive research on the pros and cons of alternative energy.

The school’s Smart Farm Project, meanwhile, created an indoor vertical farm that optimizes food production while saving habitat, farmland, energy and water.

“We have eliminated the need for the herbicides and pesticides that commonly contaminate our groundwater, soil, and food supply,” organizers say. “This project integrates ecology, engineering, problem-solving, math, art, literacy, alternative energy, research skills, collaboration, community involvement, critical thinking, and vital science process skills.”

Organizers say that if their program wins Best in Class, they will continue to expand the school’s innovative engineering programs. More than 200 students are currently benefiting from the program.

“This first started as a club and has grown into an elective class,” organizers say. “This program has also expanded to two additional schools and a film company. The program provides salads to the entire school several times a year.”

Wonderful programs

I’m grateful to the APS Education Foundation for supporting these wonderful programs, and to our innovative staff across the district who have worked hard to get these programs off the ground.

These are the types of things that engage our students and make them excited to learn!

Have a great weekend.