(TNS) — BYRON, Ga. — Two Houston County elementary schools got a visit from the state school superintendent Thursday to recognize their efforts in science, technology, engineering and math.

Eagle Springs Elementary and Northside Elementary received their STEM certification banners during ceremonies at each school, with Woods in attendance alongside school district and community leaders.

"It means a lot that they have gone above and beyond to provide the most excellent education possible for their children, and it is a process that requires a lot of work, a lot of support and a lot of engagement inside the school community itself," Woods said of the honor.

Specifically, STEM fields are emphasized in education across the state because of their ties to growing career fields, Woods said. More and more jobs rely on computer skills to some degree, and Woods described math as a "foundational" skill that works into other areas.

As part of his tour of Eagle Springs, Woods saw Kimberly Strozier's second-grade class in action, dividing flower beds into equal parts to practice fractions. Later, they'll plant different varieties of flowers meant to attract more butterflies to the school garden.

Those flowers are now being grown using aeroponic towers inside the school.

"It allows them to see real-world opportunities instead of just on a worksheet," Strozier said.

In Houston County, the engineering elements of STEM initiatives can be particularly important. District Superintendent Mark Scott said Robins Air Force Base can be a source of future jobs for the county's students if they have the right training in STEM fields.

"That's where jobs are," he said. "They have a demand for engineers on the base."

That STEM focus carries through the middle school grades and on to high school, he said, where the district has used grant funds to expand its Advanced Placement course options.

"We feel like we've got a three-pronged approach to improving that pipeline," Scott said.

STEM standards also have connections in agriculture, which is another major career field in Houston County -- and the surrounding area. Another class at Eagle Springs was learning how to use food waste and llama manure to create compost for growing plants.

Houston County school board President Fred Wilson helped pour some manure into the mix on Thursday, and he said those lessons were important.

"If they choose to do something like that, they'll be ... ahead of someone who has not learned that," he said.

The Georgia Department of Education has no plans to restrict the focus on STEM fields, seeking instead a broader experience base for students.

"What we hope to see in the future, instead of just being STEM certified, we'd like to add fine arts to it," Woods said. "So that would be moving from STEM to STEAM to really give a balance and a holistic approach to education as well."

©2016 The Macon Telegraph (Macon, Ga.), distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.