HARRIS COUNTY, Ga. (WRBL)— Tuesday, New Mountain Hill Elementary School (NMHES) received two banners marking academic excellence from the Georgia Department of Education. The first: their STEAM re-certification. Through integrated curriculum utilizing Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics, students are getting a hands-on education while aiding their community.

“[STEAM] adds a different level of interaction with our kids, expanding those opportunities for kids that perhaps maybe math and science is not truly their strong point, but they can do something in the arts,” Richard Woods, Georgia School Superintendent told WRBL. “By using this, and especially what they’re doing here at New Mountain Hill, they’re using this to make an impact on their community. Reaching out, providing food resources to food pantries and just providing assistance to families with need.”

NMHES was the first in the Harris County School District to receive their STEAM certification in 2017, at the time sixth in the state. Also, the first in the district to be re-certified. NMHES announced in March that it had been informed of the accomplishment.

Apart of that certification: an evolving approach to fighting food insecurity in Harris County. The school has kept up their gardens to donate produce to local food pantries.    

“This community has roots in rural backgrounds. There are gardeners and people who deal with horses and cows and chickens all over this community. That’s why people come here is for that,” Roger Couch, Harris County Superintendent said. “It’s been really something to have a connection for the kids to see that those are lifelong things that you’ll continue to do. To have an appreciation for nature, have an appreciation for art, and engineering, and how it all ties together.”

Their second banner, Georgia’s Literacy Leadership. Earned by last year’s third graders, 90.1% of whom finished the year reading at the expected level.

“We were pretty pleased when we saw with the younger grades, with some of the reading. But we know that we can improve across the state. Obviously, we’re not where we want to be, but we have a lot of initiative throughout the state as we get ready to roll out new reading standards,” Superintendent Woods said. “For myself being a high school social studies teacher, I know the importance of reading. It was not something I was trained to do, but I did see the impact of students either having the ability to read or not read.”

Superintendent Woods went on to visit all of the now fourth graders who received that award. He says reading is an essential tool used in all aspects of life outside of the classroom, no matter what profession they are leaning towards.

“This is something that really needs to be a lifelong endeavor for them. It will help open up any door of opportunity, what career they want to proceed, especially being very successful when they go to a university, college, or military. You have technical manuals that you have to have to read, and even as an athlete, yes, there’s something called a playbook that has a lot of writing in it as well.”

This literacy achievement is a new banner, Tuesday being the second day they were handed out by the Georgia Department of Education.

In News 3’s evening shows Wednesday, WRBL will take a deeper look at how NMHES’s community service STEAM initiative is expanding once again.