In STEM Schools, Community Partnerships Prepare Students for The Digital Future

Collaborations with business and higher education are providing students with the technology saturated environments they'll likely face in the workplace.

We enjoyed this recent piece at Education Week about how high schools around the country are emphasizing science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education through community partnerships and digital technology. Collaborations with private companies and higher education are providing students with technology saturated cooperative environments that ideally will mirror the environments they’ll find as they move onto college and into their professional fields.

“Educators hope that by exposing students to such tools early and teaching them how to use digital resources professionally and educationally, they will cultivate a new generation of young professionals interested in science, technology, engineering, and math,” reported Education Week writer Katie Ash.

However, this can be difficult, considering the ever-changing job market and its relationship with new technologies. Aimee Kennedy, Principal of Metro Early College High School, explained, “We’re very aware that we’re preparing kids now for career and life options that are probably not fully defined right at this moment.”

Kennedy’s school, which opened in 2006 as part of the Ohio STEM Learning Network, has partnered with Ohio State University and the Columbus-based Battelle Memorial Institute, which Ash defines as a “global science and technology research-and-development organization.”

The school has a 1:1 program, and most classroom materials are online resources that educators have curated themselves. According to Kennedy, teaching students how to use technology is a large portion of the curriculum at Metro Early College, which “focuses on a project- and competency-based model” where students must receive an A in order to obtain credit for each course.

Similar to Metro Early College, STEM High School outside of Seattle has also partnered with its local university to provide internships and college-level curricula. “No longer are we just doing lab work for the sake of doing lab work,” said the school’s principal Cindy Duenas. “[Our students] see that they’re working on a real issue that could have a positive impact.”

Other schools, like the New Technology High School in California and Virginia’s Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, have forged similar partnerships, all of which provide greater access to technology and more opportunities for students to have enriched experiences that will ideally prepare them for their future careers.

Here in Pittsburgh, these partnerships are happening across the grade span. Green Valley Primary School in the East Allegheny district just received a grant for a yearlong project during which students will work with a local engineering firm to design their own city. According to the proposal, students will have the opportunity to think like engineers, artists, and problem solvers by not only creating a city, but also managing its finances, transportation options, and environmental impacts as well. Meaningful guest speakers and field trips will also be incorporated into the program, which is expected to start sometime next year.

This work is part of $500,000 in grant money recently awarded to 25 Pittsburgh area schools districts, with a charge of integrating STEAM subjects into public schools and, more particularly, encourage the design of innovative spaces within school walls where students can experiment with technology.

We’ll be reporting more on this work at Remake Learning in the months to come.

Published June 11, 2013