ANTIOCH -- Black Diamond Middle School student Maxwell Edmonds-Drati wants to be an engineer, and his mother, Danielle Edmonds, believes that the school's proposed STEAM program could fuel the 11-year-old's dream next year.

"If you give me an opportunity, it is going to foster my passion," said Danielle Edmonds of the impact that the Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics curriculum could have on her son's future.

Antioch Unified School District officials received feedback from about 30 parents and teachers on the planned program at an informational meeting Wednesday. Utilizing Project Lead The Way's Gateway to Technology program for middle school students, the new curriculum will include the study of robotics, design, aeronautics, green architecture, electricity, biomedicine and technology. Officials hope to roll out the program next year.

District officials touted the program, saying it will foster students' critical thinking and problem-solving skills in addition to promoting collaboration and teamwork among peers. Versions of the program are also planned at Dallas Ranch and Park middle schools.

Mike Santos, a school district director of program improvement, said this form of education is a national movement and urged Black Diamond parents to be ambassadors of the program as it grows.

"Our goal is to aspire to make this a distinguished school," Santos said.

Parents at the meeting also expressed concerns over the existing culture at the campus, including several long-term substitute teachers in classrooms and a lack of quality teacher retention. District officials said STEAM will be an engaging and inspiring element of the school's academic offerings for 200 to 300 students on campus and that it also will help to inspire and encourage educators.

"Black Diamond is not going to be a diamond in the rough but a pure diamond," said Antioch school board member Barbara Cowan.

Parents in attendance had the chance to meet the school's new principal, Phyllis James. James said STEAM will ensure that students are college- and career-ready and make a smooth transition into high school.

"It brings out that light in all kids. We want to harness that energy," she said. "We are going to make sure our babies are ready."

Black Diamond mother Sonya Thomas said her seventh-grade daughter's self-esteem could benefit from this program. She said her daughter does well academically and wants to become a neurosurgeon.

Students would take STEAM classes as elective courses, and some parents wanted to ensure that the program would encourage not only male students but also female students, English language learners and special needs children. The program also centers on strong parent and community involvement in sharing real-world career experiences with students.

To accommodate this new curriculum, district leaders said an additional eighth period could be added to student schedules. There also has been discussion of transforming Black Diamond into a K-8 campus, but Santos said that this has not been decided and that the school would remain a sixth-through-eighth-grade campus next year.

"There is going to be a cultural shift that will happen on this campus," Santos said.

Reach Paula King at 925-779-7174.

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For more information on STEAM programs, check out www.steamedu.com.