(DULUTH, GA- DATE) - Georgia Connections Academy STEAM academy has earned Cognia STEM Certification, a national certification for science, technology, engineering and math. It is the first virtual program of its kind to earn Cognia STEM Certification. Cognia™, a nonprofit school improvement organization, accredits institutions and certifies high-quality STEM schools and programs. The Cognia STEM Certification recognizes organizations promoting inquiry and deep thinking within STEM programs that meet rigorous standards and practices including student-directed learning environments.
The Georgia Connections Academy STEAM academy also offers arts curriculum in addition to the STEM subjects. The program is offered by Georgia Connections Academy (GACA), a full-time, tuition-free, online school for students in grades K-12.
“We are pleased to congratulate Georgia Connections Academy for earning the Cognia STEM Certification,” said Dr. Mark. A. Elgart, president and CEO of Cognia. “We hope that Georgia Connections Academy’s accomplishment serves to encourage other high-quality online schools to establish standards-based STEM programs that prepare students for these important careers.”
The Georgia Connections Academy STEAM academy, established in 2018, is a highly specialized program for select high school students to take STEAM-enhanced core classes, STEAM electives, participate in weekly collaborative STEAM online sessions, STEAM-focused clubs, in-person school events and activities, and a character education program. The high school STEAM curriculum empowers students to think critically and creatively while honing their problem-solving skills and preparing them to work in fast-growing fields.
"I love the opportunity and options for my son's future that the Georgia Connections STEAM academy provides, and the interaction he gets with like-minded students," said parent Shannon Rutledge of Braselton, Ga. “The STEAM projects make him think outside of the box, coming up with an idea and executing it from start to finish.”
To earn Cognia STEM certification, Georgia Connections Academy established three years of proven practice and demonstrated evidence of an effective STEAM program. This was followed by a review process where Cognia representatives conducted observations between teachers and students in the virtual environment, and conducted interviews with students, parents, teachers, the school leadership team and various community partners. In addition, Georgia Connections Academy collected several years of longitudinal data to measure the program’s effectiveness anddemonstrate that the program met all the certification requirements set forth by Cognia.
“The mission of Georgia Connections Academy is to provide opportunities for students that extend beyond the walls of a traditional classroom, and our STEAM academy is the perfect example of this," said Georgia Connections Academy Executive Director Brazilia Page. "The Cognia certification validates and elevates the amazing and innovative efforts of our staff in expanding valuable offerings to our students. Even more, we're achieving our goal to ensure all our students can engage in rigorous coursework and have experiential learning moments designed to transcend the barriers that often limit student possibilities. We're thrilled to be recognized by Cognia, and I'm proud of the STEAM academy faculty, community partners, parents and students who have worked so hard to see this program flourish and continue to grow.”
Currently, the school’s STEAM academy has 130 students, representing 41 counties and 74 towns throughout Georgia, with program enrollment projected to grow each year. Enrolled Georgia Connections Academy students who are interested in STEAM topics are encouraged to apply to the academy and students are selected based on grades, test scores, teacher recommendations, and a personal video essay. There is also a more introductory STEAM program for GACA students in the 7th and 8th grades.
"Our STEAM academy is ideal for students who want to follow a STEAM pathway and prefer to learn in the virtual environment. It also provides an option for students in rural areas with limited access to STEAM resources," said Caroline Fernandez, Ed.S, one of Georgia Connections Academy’s Cognia team leaders and principal of curriculum and instruction.
Enrollment for Georgia Connections Academy's 2022-2023 school year will open Oct. 17 for kindergarten and grades 1-2, 6 and 10. For more information about the school, please visit https://www.georgiaconnectionsacademy.com or call 1-800-382-6010.