116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS - McKinley STEAM Academy students will get the chance for more hands-on learning this year with the construction of a new walking trail, bird sanctuary, monarch habitat, greenhouse and garden and an outdoor reading garden.
This outdoor learning space is a legacy the Class of 2025 is leaving for future students at McKinley, said Charles Schrader, 14, an eighth-grader who is one of the managers helping design and plant the project.
McKinley has given eighth-grader Aaron Butikofer, 14, also a manager on the project, a 'head start” on his future.
Through the STEAM program - science, technology, engineering, art and math - Aaron has discovered a passion for engineering.
'You're going to find something you love doing here,” he said.
The magnet school is one of five in the Cedar Rapids Community School District specializing in either STEAM, leadership or sustainability. In February, the district's annual magnet school lottery was opened to all students until April 2.
Students can attend a magnet school by living within the school's residential district or applying through the magnet school lottery. Applications for students open enrolling from outside the district are due Monday.
Magnet schools provide students with more hands-on experiences than the traditional school model, said Jason Martinez, the principal at McKinley.
'Every school strives to prepare kids for their futures, but we really go that extra mile to give our kids opportunities to experience critical thinking, communication and problem solving,” he said.
McKinley's future outdoor learning space, which will begin to take shape this spring and fall, is another opportunity for kids to create and collaborate. They will observe butterflies and birds, measure wind speeds and rainfall and grow vegetables.
Through the school's exploratory pathways program, students will learn how classes can lead to careers.
'What sold me on the idea of magnet schools is choice,” Martinez said. 'It's giving families the opportunity to choose the type of school they want their child to go through, whether it be STEAM or leadership. Parents only want what's best for their kid.”
The other Cedar Rapids magnet schools are Cedar River Academy, Johnson STEAM Academy and Kenwood Leadership Academy elementary schools and Roosevelt Creative Corridor Business Academy middle school.
Families who are interested in applying to a magnet school can learn more through a virtual tour. All core curriculum is taught through the lens of the magnet school theme.
At Cedar River, students planted apple trees last October to go along with their theme of sustainability.
At Kenwood, students give presentations to their adult business partners at companies like McGrath Auto, Trans America and CRST.
Often, their presentations revolve around the seven habits of highly effective people from the 'Leader in Me” curriculum, which is a part of the school's theme.
'It helps build their confidence because they did something that was hard and they had fun and learned a lot,” said Jillian Schulte, the district's magnet school coordinator.
The Cedar Rapids magnet school program started in 2015 with Johnson STEAM Academy in an effort to attract more students and provide family choice.
Johnson STEAM Academy was designated one of the best in the United States by Magnet Schools of America, and praised as a model for other magnets in 2019.
Last year, 50 middle school students and 100 elementary school students were accepted to magnet schools through the lottery, said Michele Wilson, magnet school coordinator and science teacher at McKinley.
Some of the most common misconceptions about magnet schools are that they accept only high-achieving students charge tuition - both of which are not true.
The Cedar Rapids magnet schools are a part of the public school system and accept students through a randomized computer system regardless of grades, and there is no tuition.
Eloise Prince, 13, started her STEAM education as an elementary student at Johnson STEAM Academy. Now an eighth-grader at McKinley, Eloise feels like she's gotten to thoroughly explore different subjects and careers before entering high school.
Enrollment was falling at McKinley before it pivoted to be a magnet school, Wilson said, who has worked at the school for 30 years.
'Which is one of the reasons we were charged with this mission to become a magnet school,” she said. 'To attract and keep some of our students in our building and offer them different ways of learning.”
With such different magnet school themes to choose from in the district, Wilson said parents know their kids best.
'Know your child's strengths. Is it leadership? Do you want STEAM built into your day? Magnet schools specialize in personalized learning,” she said.
Comments: (319) 398-8411; firstname.lastname@example.org