By Pat Jenkins

The Dispatch

All three of Eatonville School District’s elementary schools are now recipients of state-funded grants for STEM learning.
The state superintendent of public instruction (SPI) announced Eatonville Elementary School as a 2017 STEM Lighthouse awardee. The designation brings $20,000 in funding to develop programs in science, technology, engineering and math.
Eatonville Elementary joins Weyerhaeuser and Columbia Crest, which were Lighthouse grant winners in the 2014-15 and 2013-14 school years, respectively.
The grants are administered by the SPI, which annually awards them to a maximum of six schools that are considered models of STEM education. The funding comes from legislation approved in 2010, when the Legislature called for promoting schools as resources and examples of how to combine personalized, project-based learning with technical partnerships with businesses and communities. Legislators and educators said the goal is to prepare students for skilled high-tech work that’s needed by employers such as Boeing and Microsoft.
Eatonville Elementary’s selection as a STEM Lighthouse school is “a great honor,” said district superintendent Krestin Bahr. “It reflects the hard work and organization around quality STEM education.”
Bahr said that effort includes integration of arts into STEM curriculum, “which is particularly interesting. Research is clear that creativity and imagination are necessary for optimal student achievement and success. Both the arts and the sciences teach creativity, collaboration, and problem-solving skills. The critical-thinking skills of analyzing, assessing, categorizing, classifying, predicting, justifying and interpreting are reinforced by the STEM disciplines and the arts.”
In 2015, Eatonville Elementary received a 2015 state SPI award to become an arts focus school. It was one of 18 schools in Washington selected for the pilot program for grades kindergarten through six. The intent of the program, which officials said is aligned to state learning standards, is to help educators increase student performance by using visual arts as a learning strategy in English language arts and math.  
With the help of the Lighthouse program, Eatonvllle, Weyerhaeuser and Columbia Crest will be able to offer their own experience to elementary schools in other districts “on how to successfully teach STEM,” Bahr said.