Across the curriculum and at every grade level, STEM education allows students to learn through play.
"Play is the highest form of research."
—Albert EinsteinI was reminded of this quote while reading an Education Week blog post about a recent report from the American Institutes for Research and the U.S. Department of Education. The article quickly summarized the 73-page report, which was titled "STEM 2026: A Vision for Innovation in STEM Education."
"Learning about science, technology, engineering, and math is increasingly important—but right now, too many Americans don't have equitable access to great STEM education. That means that in the next decade, researchers, policymakers, and educators should focus on broadening access to STEM education so that there are lifelong opportunities, connections between professionals and schools, models for different genders and racial groups, interdisciplinary approaches, and educational activities that involve play and taking risks."
This is our goal here in District 15.
The new Next Generation Science Standards identify content and science/engineering practices that all students should learn from kindergarten through high school graduation, and we are working hard to incorporate these standards into our classrooms. Our focus throughout this implementation effort will be on infusing our instruction with STEM learning opportunities. Part of this effort involves our ongoing pilot of new Interactive Science programs that provide students with a "deeper dive" into specific areas addressed by the Next Generation Science Standards. This "deeper dive" is accomplished through the use of hands-on activities that help our students develop clear and grade-level appropriate understanding of the scientific method.
Make no mistake, though. We already have many different STEM initiatives to be proud of in our schools. In particular, Walter R. Sundling Junior High's ongoing partnership with the Museum of Science and Industry is an exciting new development that has emphasized the value of STEM education by encouraging the school's entire staff to explore ways it can incorporate STEM learning opportunities into its instruction, no matter what is taught. There are also Capital One Coders Clubs that formed last year, the Gateway to Technology program that we began offering four years ago in our junior highs, and the many different FIRST LEGO League robotics teams that more than $150,000 of Motorola Solutions Foundation Innovation Generation grants have made possible since 2001, just to name a few high-profile examples.
As we continue to incorporate the Next Generation Science Standards into our instruction and pilot and implement new science programs that support these standards, our goal is to build upon these kinds of STEM success stories and provide rigorous STEM activities for all students, preparing them for their futures!
Sincerely,Scott B. Thompson, Ed.D.Superintendent of Schools