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Our fifth graders visited the beach last week and learned that the life of a Sea Turtle is not an easy one! Thanks to the Friends of South Walton Sea Turtles Volunteers for organizing fun, educational activities for our students. Friends of South Walton Sea Turtles volunteers are dedicated to promoting sea turtle conservation through awareness and education for the residents and 3 million+ visitors to Walton County, Florida. Now that our students know the challenges that Sea Turtles face, we consider ourselves lifelong friends of sea turtles too! Submitted by Krisy Spence




Paxton High School's Gaetz Aerospace Institute students enjoyed a beautiful day at the ninth annual Marvel of Flight Fly-In held last week at the DeFuniak Springs airport. Students had the opportunity to view vintage aircraft, speak with several pilots, and view a rocket launch. They also volunteered their time to assist students from  West DeFuniak Elementary School learn about airplanes and rockets. Submitted by Kalli McMillan

Superintendent A. Russell Hughes is proud to announce the opening of a second Walton County magnet program, Walton County’s Magnet Innovation Center at St. Joe, WaterSound. The Magnet Innovation Center will focus on STEAM – Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics and will help high school students become college and career ready, especially in the area of Engineering and Robotics. This new, EPIC endeavor, which is a partnership between the school district and the St. Joe Corporation, will involve the business community and distance learning as students will participate in hands-on learning in laboratory settings.

A parent night has been planned for Wednesday, April 3rd at 5:30 p.m. at South Walton High School to take questions about this exciting new program. Please attend if you are interested or feel free to contact Jennifer Hawthorne at [email protected] for more information.

Submitted by Jennifer Hawthorne

Freeport Middle School dads and students participated in the 1st annual "Watch D.O.G.S Pizza Night" on Thursday, March 28th to kick off the implementation of the Watch D.O.G.S. program. Watch D.O.G.S. is an acronym for Dads of Great Students. The program allows fathers and father-figures to make a positive impact on hundreds of children by volunteering in their school. FMS is excited to welcome our new Watch D.O.G.S. to our campus! If you are interested in learning more about the Watch D.O.G.S. Program at FMS, please contact Ms. Leavins at 850-892-1221 ext. 3251.

Submitted by Sharie Smith

Watch Dog Dads 2

April is Autism Awareness Month! Walton County School District celebrates the value and uniqueness of every child, and recognizes the challenges that people with autism, and those who love them, face every day.  

MSE 5th graders visited Emerald Coast Technical College today and learned about the many programs the school offers. The students visited several programs, including Nursing and Health Science, Information Technology, Automotive, Electricity, and Cosmetology. In addition, Career Source provided each student with a printout of career paths that they are best suited for, based on results of an online interest survey they took. Maude Saunders is fortunate to have an awesome business partner like ECTC!!

 Submitted by Krisy Spence



On Friday, March 8th, the Walton Middle School Seaperch team, led by Mrs. Greer Harvell, traveled to the University of West Florida in Pensacola for the regional competition, scoring their best times yet.  We are incredibly proud of these students! Submitted by Kristen Nelson.

WDE second graders enjoyed designing and building leprechaun traps this March! This STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) activity guided students through the engineering design process. Students enjoyed brainstorming ideas, designing, and building the leprechaun traps.  Submitted by Jessica Dawkins.   Mrs. Jessica Dawkins’ class – Bella Woodham, Ainsleigh Schovan, Ke’Asia Patterson, Blakely Taylor

Mrs. Amber Carnley’s class – Brandi Martinez, Natalie Allen, Emma Eckert


Mrs. Jamie Ellis’ class – Jordan Daniel and Liam Adkinson

Mrs. Jessica Dawkins’ class – Mary Ruth Rhodes

Join us for the 2019 Walton County School District "State of the Schools" presentation, Tuesday, March 26, 2019, at 6:00 pm at the Carlene H. Anderson Training Center/ WISE facility!

Sharing this outstanding article written about the recently implemented program Project Lead The Way – Launch, a PreK-5 STEM curriculum! EPIC 2 in every way!

"Our goal is to help more students prepare for the global workforce." - Crystal Appel, Coordinator of Support Services, Walton County School District.
Walton County School District is a network of STEM activity. 

The district recently implemented Project Lead the Way - Launch, a PreK-5 STEM curriculum, using Title IV, Part A funds to purchase materials, IPads and training. 

Project Lead The Way (PLTW), according to the company's website, is "an activity-, project-, and problem-based (APB) instructional design centered on hands-on, real-world activities, projects, and problems that help students understand how the knowledge and skills they develop in the classroom may be applied in everyday life."


Pair that with a teacher who has a computer science degree, decades of real-world experience as a coding consultant (clients included Coca-Cola and Turner Broadcasting System) and a graduate degree in education—as well as support at the school, district and state level—and there exists a schematic for success at Bay Elementary School in Santa Rosa Beach. Students are excited and engaged, and in the exploratory project-based classrooms their “almosts” are framed as learning opportunities, not failures.

Nancy Rentz’s second grade class at Bay Elementary is learning about simple machines and forces and is constructing incline planes—ramps in simpler terms—in teams of three. Rentz is the STEM teacher for the school so she touches all students, gifted or not. In her classes, collaboration is evident; the excitement, contagious.

“What kind of forces did you use to test your incline planes?” Rentz asks the teams. They agree push was one force they used. She prods further. “Could we also do a pull?”

Students shout Yes! “And gravity is a pull, going down,” one offers. “You could pull it up,” says another, it meaning the tiger in this project. Elementary level PLTW modules usually begin with a story and proceed through three activities, a project and a final problem. The problem for these second graders was to figure out how to help the story’s tiger get out of a moat.

Rentz's third graders are learning about and testing coolers and insulators; fourth grade is engaged in the science of flight and balanced forces.

Project Lead The Way is not a program to just create future engineers. It is a program that will help create more thinkers, more collaborators, more future producers.”- Karen Parisi, Project Lead The Way Trainer

Rentz focuses on four Cs: collaboration, critical thinking, communication and creativity. She says her goal is to help students realize they are creative, they are deep thinkers and they can design and build things whether they want to be engineers or not. Her classroom is a fun, energetic and safe learning space, but she does not let students off easy.

“There was lots of dead air in class,” she says. “It’s much better now as students get accustomed to the activities, expectations and my way of questioning. I wait through the uncomfortable silence after I ask a question. I won’t jump in and give them the answers.” They must work through it, she says; they can, and they do. “They are learning it’s OK to try and to fail. I make sure they know we all are learning and we all are making mistakes as we go along.”

Safety amidst that "failure" in PLTW sealed the deal years ago for Pam Cole, an elementary teacher and PLTW trainer from Wichita, Kansas. She and her colleague, Karen Parisi, provided training for Walton County teachers in January.

“There is beauty in failure and recovering. This program changed my life,” Cole says of PLTW. “Different kids can shine and be leaders. When I first implemented it, two of my lowest level kids performed the best on coding. They were using different skills, thinking differently. Even those who can’t read well can be very successful.”

PLTW lessons can be implemented as a whole class, in small groups or in centers. In Walton County, teachers used standards to choose the modules they wanted to include in classes. Christine Petersen, Digital Learning Specialist for Walton County School District, underwent PLTW training along with teachers. “Teachers can infuse technology into their instruction throughout the lesson,” she says. “They were excited to begin their projects, and PLTW will enhance their current science lessons and develop technology skills needed for the 21st century.”

Students say the science classes are fun. "We get to build things," one girl chirps while another counts holes in a plastic part, comparing it to the schematic on her team's iPad. The small groups are engaged and full of energy, and all appear on task.

“With Project Lead The Way (PLTW) different kids can shine and be leaders. Students learn there is beauty in failing and recovering. This program changed my life.”- Pam Cole, Project Lead The Way Trainer and Elementary School Science Teacher

Project Lead The Way is in its first year of implementation in Walton County schools, says Crystal Appel, Coordinator of Instructional Support Services. “The goal is to help more students prepare for the global workforce…It aligns with many of our middle and high school CTE program frameworks. PLTW has partnered with AP, and the College Board and PLTW have partnered on a program to encourage student participation in STEM degrees and careers,” she said via email.

Walton County School District plans to implement the program at the high school level next year, and Bay Elementary's goal is to be STEM-certified. The certification process takes two years.

As for students at Bay Elementary and other Walton County schools (Butler Elementary, Emerald Coast Middle and Walton Middle), they will continue exploring, building, working together and becoming fluent in academic and technological language through PLTW.

And yes, a few second graders have sights on becoming engineers.