Booker T. Washington STEM Academy


"All students use the STEM lab weekly, whether it is students designing and printing 3D objects in art or designing and marketing shower gel – being chemical engineers as well as marketing professionals and entrepreneurs – students experience the power and possibilities in STEM fields.”

-- Joe Muskin, Education Coordinator for the Department of Mechanical Science and Engineering, University of Illinois

Program Type

Curriculum/Instructional Materials
Teacher Development/Training
Hands on/Project-Based
College Readiness

Target Audience

Black/African American

Low Socio-Economic Status




Pre-K - 5

 Promising link

Program Impact

The STEM program at BTW STEM Academy reaches students and families in all parts of Champaign, Illinois.  We have reduced racial isolation and low socio-economic status (SES), going from 93% minority and 82% low SES in 2010 to 66% minority and 57% low SES in 2015 while increasing our student population by 165%.  Our goal of creating an innovative and engaging STEM program  has been vetted by a third party evaluator, Metis Associates, and judged to be “effectively and explicitly incorporated into all aspects of BTW, including in the displays of authentic student work throughout the school building and thematic curriculum and innovative instructional practices in the classrooms."

Academically, we see promising improvement.  The Illinois Standards Achievement Test (ISAT) measures the achievement of students in reading and mathematics in grades three through eight and science in grades four and seven.  An examination of cohort data from the 2013 to the 2014 school year shows encouraging results.  The percent of students meeting or exceeding state standards increased both in reading and mathematics for African American and low income students.  This increase occurred as students moved from 3rd to 4th grade and 4th to 5th grade.  For students moving from 4th to 5th grade, this rate of increase exceeded the rate of increase at both the district and state level.  The percent of students meeting or exceeding standards exceeded both the district and state levels for the same subgroup for 4th grade African American students in math, and 5th grade low income students in reading and math.  African American students meeting or exceeding standards exceeded the same subgroup of students at the district level in both 4th and 5th grade reading.


Program Overview

Booker T. Washington (BTW) STEM Academy is a public K-5 elementary school with a school wide, integrated STEM program developed to address equity issues in literacy, gifted education and achievement, as well as to reduce racial isolation in our largely African American student population. The mission of the school is to empower students to think critically, reflectively, and apply their knowledge and skills to a greater context.

BTW students experience unique opportunities for STEM education with rigorous and relevant hands-on investigations through inquiry based instruction, integrated curriculum and collaboration. At BTW, we work to foster innovative thinking through STEM teaching and learning, a passion for inquiry and a compassion for others so we can enrich our world.                                                                                          

Since opening its doors, Booker T Washington has exposed all students to lessons that include nanotechnology, chemistry, physics, geotechnical engineering, chemical engineering, civil engineering, environmental science. and biology.  In three and a half years, the STEM program has grown from an enrollment of 227 to 374 and become one of Champaign, Illinois’s most selected schools in the Schools of Choice Program.

School-wide quarterly themes – Systems, Cycles and Models,  Structure, Function and Patterns,  Energy, Matter, Force and MotionCause and Effect: Human Impact and Sustainability – provide a framework for teachers to create unique lessons incorporating STEM into every part of the day through inquiry and explicit instruction.  Currently, teachers are doing pioneering work to refine units, lessons and assessments that are aligned with the Next Generation Science Standards.                  

How To Get Involved

BTW STEM Academy is interested in building partnerships with corporate and educational institutions who want to further STEM education at the elementary school level.  STEM teaching and learning at the K-5 level is exciting and engaging.  We are in need of volunteers to help students deepen their understanding during STEM lessons, experts in STEM fields who would like to collaborate with us to create new STEM units of study and donors who would like to fund STEM projects and field trips that will expose our students to real world STEM experiences.  A donation of $300.00 will allow a grade level to travel locally while a donation of $2,400.00 will fund travel to a Chicago or St. Louis museum or educational site.  A donation of $20,000.00 will provide chromebooks or tablets for 72 students.  Donations of $5,000.00 or more will allow us to purchase cutting edge technology for our STEM Lab.

Funders and Partners


  • Magnet Schools of America, Magnet Schools Assistance Program Grant 2011-2015
  • Champaign Unit #4 School District

Program Partners: 

  • I-STEM Educational Initiative, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (UIUC)
  • Department of Mechanical Science and Engineering, UIUC
  • National Society of Black Engineers, University of Illinois Chapter
  • Engineers in the Classroom
  • Entrepreneurial Leadership in STEM Teaching and Learning – EnLiST, UIUC
  • Geotechnical Engineering Program, UIUC
  • Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences – UIUC
  • Department of Entomology, UIUC
  • University of Illinois Family Resiliency Center
  • East Central Illinois Master Naturalists



Martha Henss, STEM Coordinator

Visit Website

Design Principles

The programs in this database clear a high bar. STEMworks reviewed each program against the Design Principles for Effective STEM Philanthropy.

  • Accomplished
  • Developing
  • Undeveloped

Overarching Principles

  • Need

    Identify and target a compelling and well-defined need.

  • Evaluation

    Use rigorous evaluation to continuously measure and inform progress towards the compelling need identified.

  • Sustainability

    Ensure work is sustainable.

  • Replication and Scalability

    Demonstrate replicability and scalability.

  • Partnerships

    Create high impact partnerships

  • Capacity

    Ensure organizational capacity to achieve goals.

STEM Principles

  • Challenging and Relevant Content

    Offer challenging and relevant STEM content for the target audience

  • STEM Practices

    Incorporate and encourage STEM practices.

  • Inspiration

    Inspire interest and engagement in STEM.

  • Under-Represented Groups

    Identify and address the needs of under-represented groups.