Building Bright Futures at River Bend Middle School

Before River Bend Middle School opened its doors in August  of 2017, River Bend teachers were getting free, hands-on professional development experiences through WakeEd\’s SummerSTEM program.

Written by Stacey F. Weddle
Principal, River Bend Middle School


As a principal, I am always seeking high quality professional development opportunities for staff. I have encouraged my teachers to participate in SummerSTEM since its inception and typically send at least two teams of teachers to this program.  SummerSTEM provides teachers with hands-on engaging experiences that they bring back to share with peers and students, thus creating a ripple effect in my school and supporting their growth as teacher leaders.

River Bend Middle School opened in August of this year.  SummerSTEM gave my teachers the opportunity to meet, learn, and plan before our school building was even completed.  They developed relationships with each other and have already shared their activities within their PLTs.  With a focus on the 4Cs and personalized learning, teachers learned how to engage students in real world problem solving based on the immersion experiences at Biogen, Novozymes, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, and US Environmental Protection Agency.


Teachers are first and foremost learners.  As teachers learn new techniques and strategies, they become more passionate about their work and continue to expand their professional practices.  This is a never-ending cycle of continuing growth as an education professional. When teachers are enthusiastic about their content, students are better engaged and experience more success.  SummerSTEM exposed my teachers to innovative ways of thinking about their content, especially in its application to the world beyond the classroom.

In a rapidly changing world, teachers need to provide instruction that goes beyond recalling facts.  Students no longer need a teacher to provide them with answers.  Students need teachers who teach them how to think, to assess information that is readily available, and to make logical conclusions based upon their research.  The workforce seeks future employees – my students – who can work cooperatively, think critically, and successfully manage projects from start to finish.  SummerSTEM provides educators with tools to teach these essential skills. As a result of the River Bend Middle School teachers participating in SummerSTEM, their students will become interested in careers that were not even a previous consideration.

By holding this professional development in the summer, SummerSTEM affords teachers the opportunity to reflect on their current instructional practices while imagining how they can take students to the next level.  I would highly recommend SummerSTEM to any teacher as a way to learn the latest in a fast paced and every changing STEM world.

Written by Arlan Peters
Head of Sustainability, Novozymes North America Inc.

\"\"Novozymes North America was proud to participate in the Summer STEM program hosted by WakeEd Partnership this past July. As a world leader in biotechnology, Novozymes finds biological answers for better lives in a growing world. Our motto is “Let’s Rethink Tomorrow”. Innovation is a big part of what we do, and we believe that science education is crucial for society to meet the challenges of the 21st century. That is why Novozymes focuses on science education when we work with our local community. By 2020 we want to reach 1 million students to create greater understanding of biology, biotechnology and sustainability. Of course, we cannot do that alone; we need the help of engaged and professional partners like the WakeEd Partnership. Our biggest opportunity for impact is to help teachers be successful in inspiring their students to explore science, both for career opportunities and to be informed and engaged citizens.  For the Summer STEM program, we hosted 10 teachers for a day at our site in Franklinton NC. This group of dynamic individuals visited our R&D labs to learn about how we use enzymes to create biofuels. They saw how robotics and automation are changing the way we work.  They learned how pilot scale experiments help us create big savings at the plant level.  Finally, they participated in an exercise to apply LEAN engineering principles to a real-world problem we were currently tackling in our supply operations. It was great to have this group of smart and energetic teachers engaging with us. We are excited to see them bring that experience into the classroom to an inspire their students to “Rethink Tomorrow.”

\"\"Written by Cheryl C. Henry
Teacher, River Bend Middle School

My priority is to find my students a lesson design that will prepare them beyond the secondary setting.  I wanted a way to engage my students in relevant real-world problems, and push them to think of solutions \”outside\” of the box.  This also includes my students using soft skills to collaborate with each other, be creative, think critically, and to learn the importance of communication.  Studies have shown that meaningful learning situations help in long-term retention of knowledge.  PBL is a fantastic way to enforce the basic scientific method used in science, along with integrating the use of other core classes. In a world that is fast-paced and constantly changing, I feel that the SummerSTEM has allowed me an avenue to make sure that my students are able to meet future demands on them.  The program has given me support with materials and coaches to guide me.

Written by Joy Long
Teacher, River Bend Middle School

\"\"Starting in a brand-new school this year, I was searching for the best way to bring real-world problems into the classroom that related to our school’s community. While immersed in the SummerSTEM experience, I gained insight on implementing the 4-C’s within project-based learning. When students learn by doing science and make decisions based on their experiences and findings, they acquire problem solving skills and content knowledge that they can draw from and build upon their academic career. This experience, especially the Field Experiences, allowed me to gain valuable resources for implementing a project, possible speakers for my classroom and networking with experts in the area my teammate and I chose.

The SummerSTEM experience has aided me in teacher leadership, as I am sharing STEM and Project-Based Learning concepts and lessons with other Science teachers as well as creating cross-curricular projects with core content team members.

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