The Innovation Academy is a specialized program at Martin Middle School that is focused on science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). The Academy was established in Fall of 2015 with the goal of better preparing students for a successful high school career and college readiness.

The Academy does this by providing various enrichment opportunities inside and outside of the classroom, as well as a high level of rigor. The Innovation Academy at Martin has numerous partnerships throughout the business and educational community, including a partnership with the University of Texas and the National Wildlife Federation.

Students gardening. Photo by Erica Brokaw
Last fall, the Innovation Academy held an event in order to build a monarch butterfly refuge and food garden on their campus. There were over 70 students, teachers, parents, and community members at the event and Chipotle donated burritos to feed everyone who attended.

During the event, there were 7 gardens built from scratch and a total of 12 gardens planted in. The turnout resulted in the most successful community gardening day of any school in Austin Independent School District (ISD) history. Part of the gardening project included a cross-curricular, Project Based Learning (PBL) curriculum for the students.

Students gardening. Photo by Erica Brokaw
Monarch. Photo by Marya Fowler
Monarch. Photo by Marya Fowler
For the weeks leading up to the gardening event, the students studied about the migration of the monarchs in social studies and about the life cycle and environmental factors of the monarchs during science class. The students even drew up plans and designed the garden during their “Gateways to Technology” class. With all of the information they gathered about the monarch: their lives, needs, why they are in danger, and what people can do to help, the students then created presentations using photos from the garden project as well.

Martin Middle School also held a STEAM (STEM, including the arts) night in order to showcase their Fine Arts programs, and all of the excellent projects occurring in science and math classes. The event was held in the Austin ISD Performing Arts Center (PAC).

During Martin’s STEAM night, over 500 parents, educators, and community members attended. In between the performances, the Innovation Academy students went on stage and their Power Point presentations were projected on the large screens in front of the audience. The groups each went through their presentations, with all students being responsible for speaking to the audience about their section.

Not only was this the first time that many of the students had spoken publically, but it was also the first time any of them had ever been on a large stage in an auditorium. The students did an excellent job and generated a lot of conversation about the monarchs in the school and community. Success!

Martin Middle School is certified with the National Wildlife Federation as a Schoolyard Habitat since the area offers places for wildlife to find food, water, cover, and places to reproduce and raise their young. The area also is maintained through sustainable gardening.

Certify Now Learn about how you can create and certify your schoolyard with the National Wildlife Federation today!


About the Author: Nikki Scofield-Kennedy, Science Coach and Innovation Academy Coordinator at Martin Middle School