Female elementary student working in STEM lab at Red Mountain Ranch Elementary.

Starting in the 2024-25 school year, Red Mountain Ranch Elementary will become the K-8 STEM Academy at Red Mountain Ranch, reflecting a dedicated focus on Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).

Jaclyn Bycott, principal at Red Mountain Ranch Elementary, shares the initiative is designed to equip students with essential skills and knowledge, so they will thrive in an ever-evolving technological environment while preparing them for leadership roles in STEM-related fields.

Learn more about the program through an interview with Principal Bycott.  

What inspired the Academy?

Red Mountain Ranch fosters an educational vision and mission that embraces the principles of Design Thinking, utilizes teacher teams and believes in the potential of every student to achieve their academic goals. We recognize that there is a crucial gap as students transition to junior high school for our students with the desire to continue on a STEM track. We actively sought feedback from parents and their input underscored the desire for a seamless continuation of Design Thinking into junior high, reinforcing our commitment to supporting students on their educational path to Red Mountain.

What do students' schedules look like?

Over the past two years, our collaboration with Honeywell has flourished, establishing a robust partnership characterized by positivity and collaboration. Currently, 5th- and 6th-grade students benefit from assigned Honeywell mentors, fostering a proactive connection where students can reach out for guidance and project support during the school day. As we advance into 7th and 8th grade, students will engage in a keystone elective, necessitating flexible groups and scheduling. Seeking to optimize Honeywell's expertise, we aim to determine the certificates our students can earn, contributing to their graduation plus diploma. Unlike traditional bell schedules that ring every 55 minutes, our approach tailors schedules to students' projects and needs. There will be schedules but there won't be traditional bells that ring, prompting students to move from reading to math. To better illustrate this, if a student is immersed in an engineering project, their schedule will align with high school engineering partners, whether virtually or in person, allowing seamless collaboration. The flexible schedule allows for all subjects to be taught based on state requirements, while allowing students to work on various projects in the Thinkerspace studio. 

Can you provide a day-in-the-life snap of a seventh-grader next year?

The school day kicks off at 8:15 a.m., providing a distinct advantage as all our students follow an 8:15 to 2:45 schedule, deviating from the 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. structure at our comprehensive junior highs. Students begin in their homeroom, akin to advisory or rodeo in comprehensive junior high schools, where they outline their day with their teacher. Integrated units of study in Math, ELA, science, and social studies revolve around student projects. Amidst the day, students enjoy lunch and explore elective options such as band, orchestra, art, a PE choice, a prospective coding elective, and opportunities to participate in sports and honors courses.

We implement a 2-6th-grade structure with a teaming model, ensuring that each student encounters all four teachers during the transition from 4th to 5th grade throughout the day. For example, a student may attend math with one teacher, move to another for reading, and have her homeroom teacher for writing. The teacher creates a personalized schedule for the student, facilitating seamless movement between classrooms as dictated by the schedule.

Can you explain more about Keystone Projects?

Students will explore all Red Mountain STEM CTE pathways, such as biomed, computer science, and engineering. We don't expect 11- or 12-year-olds to know what they are going to do with their lives, but it allows them to try on different fields, determining their interests. Some students might be fascinated with the biomed program, while others know they love STEM subjects and enjoy math, projects, engineering, and thinking through the lens of design. Students are exposed to all the STEM areas that Red Mountain offers and are designed to align seamlessly when they enter Red Mountain as ninth-graders.

Students will be organized into teams based on their chosen pathways, allowing them to declare, for instance, 'I want to be an engineer.' Within their cohort or group, students will specifically focus on engineering. In math classes, they will receive the necessary mathematical support for their engineering projects. In English language arts (ELA) classes, they will develop the research and writing skills needed to underpin their projects. Social studies sessions will delve into the history of machinery, ensuring that everything is seamlessly integrated through the lens of engineering thinking. This comprehensive approach extends across all pathways offered in high school. Junior high students will lay the groundwork, facilitating a smooth transition into high school, where they can seamlessly continue their educational journey.

What are a few future goals?

I would like to see more girls involved in STEM and engineering, and I want to eliminate the fear of math and high-level thinking in sciences like physics. From business to marketing, the jobs of the future will all be influenced by STEM. I want our students to have authentic learning experiences that set them up for success, whatever path they choose.

How to enroll and explore the program

Come learn more about our K-8 program at our Kindergarten Roundup and Open House on January 25, 2024, from 4:40 to 6:30 p.m. 

If you are interested in joining for the next school year, have questions, or would like a tour of the campus, please contact Red Mountain Ranch Elementary at (480) 472-7900 or  jmbycott@mpsaz.org and enroll at mpsaz.org/o/mpsaz/page/enroll.