Team Leader: Dr. Brian Richard, Coordinator of Career & Technology Education
The realization of our vision will be built upon the philosophy that education comes down to three basic principles: rigor, relevance and relationships. Our position is that STEM education is the convergence of these three principles. When instruction is delivered in a way that students can find the relevance in the real world it paves the way for more rigorous instruction. Furthermore, when STEM is used to drive the instructional design of the core academic classes it changes the learning experience for students. "STEM does not mean teaching more. It means teaching differently…it requires a transdisciplinary plan that includes and applies to all the subjects and skills needed to solve the problem" . A sustainable STEM program also requires strong relationships. According to Education Week (2015) successful STEM programs also have strong partnerships amongst stakeholders (students, staff, administrators, parents, business & industry, and school boards).
The School District of Pickens County has a five year strategic plan to enact these three principles that will shape the learning environments in our schools. The plan is organized around these three facets of learning beginning with relationships. By leveraging the strong partnership established between our Business and Education Alliance and our school district we are introducing a program entitled, The Junior Apprenticeship Program. This program is designed to extend the learning day for students by providing STEM Career Clubs beyond the traditional school hours of 8:00am – 3:00pm, and re-capture the lost time between 3:30 – 6:00pm. It will be modeled after the STEM Careers Camp we offer each summer at our Career and Technology Center where students learn about career pathways, as well as design, program, and compete in robotics' design challenges.
Each club at our schools will have an advisor from our Business & Education Alliance who will help facilitate the learning experience along with a certified STEM Coach and Career Guidance Counselor. The Advisor, with the help of the Business & Education Alliance will also help coordinate guest speakers, mentors, and field trips to local businesses and industry. Under the supervision of the Coordinator of Career and STEM Education each school will round out the STEM Careers team with a Junior Apprenticeship Program. Working alongside the school's STEM Career Advisor, Coach, and Guidance Counselor, a student mentor from our Career and Technology Center will have the opportunity to take on a middle school student as an apprentice in the STEM Careers program. Using a similar formula we currently use in referring Career Center students for Work Based Learning programs such as internships, co-ops, and apprenticeships; these students will be paired with their mentees based on career interests and aptitude. After a successful pilot at the middle school level, the Junior Apprenticeship program will be extended to the elementary schools using a similar model.
The second facet of the school district's strategic plan is to ensure the rigor of our STEM programs with a focus on numeracy and scientific reasoning skills. We are organizing two cohorts of STEM coaches and providing them with the training, equipment, and support they will need. Each teacher will not only become lead STEM teachers at their schools, but they will also coach the faculty in the principles of integrative STEM. The plan calls for each school to have two lead STEM coaches (grades K – 2, and grades 3 -5). The lead STEM teacher at each school will incrementally immerse the school in integrative STEM across disciplines, and grade levels. The establishment of Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) amongst our lead STEM coaches at the elementary, middle, and high schools will ensure the rigor and vertical alignment of integrative STEM throughout the district.
The third facet of the strategic plan for integrative STEM is to project the success of these partnerships, and instructional design principles to the core academic achievement of the district. As measured by the ACT and ACT Aspire STEM score reports we expect to realize a measurable improvement in math and science achievement for our students. The Professional Learning Community made up of integrative STEM coaches will be well versed in the principles of rigor, relevance, and relationships; and prepared to serve the greater faculty in these areas.