Culturally Relevant Inspiration

EDU 692 Leslie Mitchell

What This School Is Achieving

Walter Bracken STEAM Academy, a Title 1, PK-5 public magnet school in Las Vegas, Nevada, converted a janitor's closet into a financial center for student banking; transformed the entire school into a library; overhauled 32,000 square feet of dry grass into student-centered learning gardens; and revolutionized enrichment curriculum teaching math with drones and science with candy.

  1. 2013 National Blue Ribbon School
  2. Five Star rating on the Nevada School Performance Framework
  3. Outperforms both state and county proficiency rates in science and writing by more than 20 percentage points
Interest-Based Electives: Engaging Students With STEAM Explorations

Walter Bracken STEAM Academy Demographics

Walter Bracken Elementary School is a public magnet school in Las Vegas, Nevada. It has 521 students in grades PK and K-5. According to state standards, 89% of students at this school are considered proficient in math and/or reading.

Enrollment 527 | Public, Urban


$9,402 School | $8,576 State

Data is from the 2014-2015 academic year.


54% Hispanic
18% White
12% Black
7% Two or more races
56% Free/Reduced Lunch

Data is from the 2014-2015 academic year.

Cultural Relevant Pedagogy

At Walter Bracken teachers create exploration for children, so that they can sign up for an interest that they may have. It also provides the teachers with an incentive to be able to teach something that they're very passionate about.

According to Vicky one of the teachers at Walter Bracken Steam Academy : " Each teacher picks a topic that they're interested in that fits in our STEAM theme, the science, technology, engineering, the arts, or mathematics, and they come up with eight lessons that go along with it. And then the kids get to choose which topic, and you have mixed grade levels."

Wardle (2013) explains in his book that culturally relevant pedagogy is an approach that requires teachers not to be judgmental, but inclusive of their students. To facilitate their learning by taking their diverse backgrounds into consideration. This approach allows the teacher to create a relationship based foundation in which students feel included, motivated and engaged in the learning process.

Participating in culturally relevant teaching essentially means that teachers create a bridge between students' home and school lives, while still meeting the expectations of the district and state curriculum requirments.

Series Reading: Tracking, Rewarding, and Encouraging Literacy

Engagement, Creataivity and Innovative Practices

Walter Bracken focuses on the child's interest. The staff brainstorms on key components that need to be taught according to grade level, but once chosen the students get a say on the topic. This allows the students to scaffold their knowledge by adding more details to thier investigations about their interest.

The school engages students and families so that learning can also be supported in the home. As parents see the excitement happening at school, they can collaborate by expanding the conversations in the home, to get the support and the critical thinking process going.

Creativity is fostered throuhgout curriculum by students and teachers being actively involved in hands on activities. Students use their collaboration skills while building or constructing from theri sketched blue prints. Teachers motivate their students by offenring coaching through their critical thinking processes. They ask thought provoking questions that make students stretch their imagination while trying it out their hypothesis.

21st Century Skills

  • Collaboration and Team Work
  • Creativity and Imagination
  • Critical Thinking
  • Problem Solving
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Edutopia, (2016). Interest Based Electives: Engaging Students With STEAM Explorations. Retieved from:

Wardle, F. (2013). Human relationships and learning in the multicultural environment.

San Diego, CA: Bridgepoint Education, Inc.