By Don Lowe

At RISE (Reaching and Inspiring through STEAM Education) Elementary School in Neosho, Missouri, there’s a fascinating approach to sharing knowledge with young minds known as STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math) and it’s more important than ever to make this a priority for even the youngest of students.

RISE Elementary School Principal Satotha Burr understands the significance of this initiative and shares, “We focus on authentic learning, which includes project-based learning (PBL) tinkering, making and STEAM. Authentic learning encourages collaborating, critical thinking, risk taking, problem solving and other employability skills. There’s no better place to start this than in the early grades. 

“We believe if you wait until high school to begin STEAM education, then you’ve started too late. Although RISE is the first school in Neosho to guarantee this type of learning every day, all our elementary schools are on this journey with us.

“The middle school (fifth and sixth grades) has also been preparing for STEAM education by restructuring their teams to include STEAM education in each pod.” 

As for how this idea originated, Principal Burr says, “It was the vision of our Neosho Superintendent of Schools Dr. Jim Cummins and Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction Mr. Nathan Manley. It was first presented to the Neosho School Board in the fall of 2019.” 

There’s been wide-ranging support for this effort and Principal Burr sites various organizations for their advocacy including “Neosho School Board, Scott Family Amazeum, Paragon Architecture, Branco Enterprises and Magnify Learning.” 

An interesting aspect to this school is its location inside the historic Haas Building that has been a fixture in Neosho for 125 years. Principal Burr says, “It was built in 1898 to be used as a warehouse for groceries. 

“It had a mix of stone and brick, which still exists today. The cypress beams present then are still there today. Every classroom has at least one or two beams in it and most have two. In 1942, it was sold and re-opened as a feed service. The building is a perfect mix of old and new.” 

In explaining what makes this Haas Building ideal, Principal Burr reasons, “By being a block away from the historic Neosho square, there are many opportunities for the students to partner with several businesses. The area parks, which are in proximity, also allows various learning opportunities. 

“The district is committed to success for all students, and we believe that by teaching students through STEAM education, all students will be ready for the future workforce in whatever area they choose to pursue.” 

In helping lead her team and more than 200 students through this pivotal program, Principal Burr assures, “It’s an exciting time in our district, and RISE Elementary is just one of the reasons. Being able to be on the ground floor of starting the first STEAM school in our district and the area is exciting.”

RISE Elementary School, Neosho, Missouri, Fast Facts

Focus: Reaching and Inspiring through STEAM Education (STEAM: science, technology, engineering, arts and math) 

School Hours: Monday-Friday from 7:25 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. 

Physical Address: 201 N. Washington Street, Neosho, Missouri 

Phone Number: 417.451.8620 

Email Address: [email protected] 


Student Enrollment: 230 

Total Number of Staff/Teachers: Approximately 30 staff (RISE Elementary is grades K-4 with two teachers per grade level) 

School Leadership Team: Ashleyanne Cantwell, McKinzie Cooper, Shelby Drouin, Sonya Kew, Christina Lee and Holli Sears