21st Century Learning

Infusing the humanities with technology in Sarasota County middle schools.

If we insist that students and their teachers leave technology at the classroom door, it will be our students who are left out—of the opportunities and jobs of tomorrow. That’s why we have expanded the proven technology and techniques of our STEMsmart initiative to classrooms beyond science and math.

Gulf Coast’s five-year STEMsmart initiative introduced new technology and instructional methods that have transformed the way teachers teach and students learn science, technology, engineering, and math, or STEM. Success demonstrated in Sarasota County Schools has included  higher passing rates in Algebra One (nearly 100 percent); increased enrollment in Advanced Placement courses during high school; increased student interest in science and technology careers; and energized and empowered teachers who insist they will never go back to teaching like they did in their traditional classrooms.

To build on this success, the Charles and Margery Barancik Foundation—significant supporters of STEMsmart—funded a pilot expansion of technology to all language arts and social studies classrooms at Sarasota Middle School. The test aimed to determine whether the TechActive classroom technology and new instructional methods implemented through STEMsmart were transferable to those subject areas.

Results from independent evaluations revealed strong support for the new classrooms by students and teachers. Gulf Coast then partnered with the Charles and Margery Barancik Foundation to fund an additional 45 technology-based middle-school English and social studies classrooms. Over the next two years, we expect to fund more than 80 more classrooms, with Gulf Coast covering southern Sarasota County schools and the Barancik Foundation funding schools in the northern part of the county. By the end of the effort, the foundations intend to transform more than 130 English and social studies classrooms in Sarasota County middle schools through an investment of over $3.5 million.