Grantee Corner  |  School District of Palm Beach County

A teacher assists three students working on iPads
Palmetto Elementary School teacher guides students through coding robots to demonstrate IB learner profiles

Three students work on an iPad
Palmetto Elementary School students learn to code

Two students work on an iPad to control a small robot sitting on the table
Palmetto Elementary School students test hypotheses with robotics coding

Two female students work on an iPad
Palmetto Elementary School students learn how to use the engineering design process

Two female students work on an iPad
Palmetto Elementary School students use robotics to create summative assessments to demonstrate understanding

A female student holds up an iPad with a video of a robot displayed on the screen
Palmetto Elementary School students film their robotics to tell stories

Headshot of Sandra Wesson
Sandra Wesson, Palm Beach County Project Director

The School District of Palm Beach County (Palm Beach County) in Florida is the nation’s twelfth largest and the state’s fifth largest, serving more than 191,000 students in 186 schools. The student population is 34 percent White, 32 percent Hispanic, 29 percent African American, and 5 percent Other. Students speak 150 languages and dialects.
Palm Beach County’s Magnet Schools Assistance Program (MSAP) project focuses on innovative instructional methods and practices that help to promote diversity and strengthen students’ knowledge and skills required to be successful. The schools implement professional development that enhances and sustains high teacher performance and provides equitable access to high-quality educational programs.   

The MSAP project includes five magnet schools: three middle schools (Carver Middle School, Howell L. Watkins Middle School, and Congress Middle School) and two elementary schools (Palmetto Elementary School and Grove Park Elementary School). Four of the five schools offer whole-school IB Programmes with science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) infusion, while Congress Middle School offers a science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics (STEAM) academy. All five schools are the first magnet schools in the district in which all teachers and students have personal digital devices (iPads). This 1:1 Personal Digital Device Initiative helps students attain marketable technological skills that will contribute to success in career and college and transforms classrooms into connected, engaging, effective, and authentic learning environments. In addition, the technology allows students to build personal digital portfolios that can travel with them each year. 

MSAP funds support extensive professional development at the schools on topics such as International Baccalaureate (IB), project-based learning, authentic education, Understanding by Design, Junior Great Books, and STEM. In addition, community partners such as the South Florida Science Center, Palm Beach Zoo, The Boca Raton Museum of Art, Florida Power and Light, and Scripps Institute enhance STEM integration by providing valuable educational opportunities for teachers and students.  

All five schools receive STEM infusion resources, including environmental learning labs, robotics, Project Lead the Way Engineering, and maker spaces that have 3D printers and digital cutters. Experienced STEM and STEAM coaches provide support to the schools. The four IB schools also have multimedia United Nations learning centers and language labs to support students’ development as internationally minded global citizens. Congress Middle School supports arts integration with artists-in-residence, a digital piano lab, and a new dance floor, and new orchestral instruments

The Project Director, Sandra Wesson, has been an IB educator since 1998 and has served as an IB Americas workshop leader, consultant, and site evaluator since 2002. She has been the Magnet/Choice Programs Manager for Palm Beach County for 10 years. Marketing Specialist Teodora Kamburov has established an MSAP Choice Schools page on the district website and has worked with the schools to revise their websites and establish marketing plans. She is planning community events to paint murals to support the Choice theme at each of the five schools.