Making STEM happen
11/3/2011 By: James Careless
The importance of science, technology,
engineering, and math (STEM) is
a popular subject. But who is actually
doing something about it? Here are
some examples of STEM innovations in
action, compiled by Tech & Learning.
Clarksville Montgomery County
School System, Clarksville, TN
Description of STEM Program: The
STEM Academy at Kenwood High
School was introduced in the 2010–
2011 school year. The academy features
an integrated core curriculum
of math, science, social studies, and
English, along with an engineering
class, that will prepare students for
educational and workforce opportunities
in STEM careers.
“Student competitiveness in the
global economy is the foremost reason
for moving toward
a STEM way of teaching,”
says chief academic
officer Dr. B.J.
Tools Used: Dell
Latitude E6420 laptops;
Vernier probes; 10-inch
and all the seeds,
soil, and containers necessary
to grow plants quickly
Program Goal: The integration
of the core areas will allow
students to answer questions using
the engineering design process: Ask,
imagine, plan, create, and improve.
|A student from Clarksville Schools holds a motion probe.
How Executed: The STEM Academy
uses laptop computers and graphing
calculators. The Vernier probes,
models, and lab equipment provide
students the opportunity to collect and
analyze data in math and science
Program Results: “Data
collected during the pilot
phase shows positive patterns
of better attendance,
lowered student discipline
referrals, increased engagement,
and higher achievement
on assessment tests,”
Dr. Worthington says.
Grants Received: Federal
Race to the Top funding and
$50,000 from the Hemlock
for the purchase of equipment
programs and other STEM
Colegio Colonial de Pirque,
Description of STEM Program: CCP
Geo Leaders and Geo Information
Colegio Colonial de Pirque is a small
school located in the rural horsebreeding
and farming community of
Pirque, Chile. Students from six to 18
years old are eligible to participate in a
variety of STEM-related programs that
are available throughout the school
“Everything we do in our world
emerges from the roots and foundational
principles of STEM,” says
CCP cofounder and owner Edmundo
Sovino. “STEM education and experience
is essential for all young people
to learn and grow.”
Tools Used: Interactive board with
Mimio software; colegiointeractivo.
com Intranet to link students, teachers,
and parents; LEGO Mindstorms
NXT Robotic kits
Program Goal: The school is working to become the first fully sustainable
and green school in Chile by
training Youth Eco-Leaders.
|Geo Leaders from Chile are ambassadors for Colegio Colonial’s environment-related projects.
How Executed: The school’s students
and teachers planted an orchard,
built a greenhouse, and created a garden
with the support of environmentalists
from their community. They use
the vegetables from the garden to prepare
lunch. Students on the school’s
robotics team designed and installed
an automatic watering system.
The unused vegetables are either
sold or turned into compost, which is
also sold. The students recycle twoliter
soda bottles by filling them with
paper so they serve as “eco bricks.”
Colegio Colonial de Pirque’s students
are now researching how to
heat and cool the school with solar
Program Results: The program
has been well received by the school,
the Chilean government, and the
community at large. Kids in all
grades participated in building the
garden, and many of them take part
in the ongoing maintenance.
Grants Received? None.
Girls Get IT and VOiCE (both
Description of STEM Programs: The
Girls Get IT program works with
schools from elementary through
high school across Florida to
increase the rates of participation
and graduation among female students
in STEM and IT courses. The
program is operated by the Florida
Endowment Foundation for Florida’s
Graduates (The Foundation).
VOiCE is a multimedia afterschool
club that gives young people
real-world, work-based learning
opportunities in journalism, creative
writing, songwriting, composing,
graphic design, communications,
and publishing. VOiCE is also operated
by The Foundation.
Tools Used: Digital still and video
cameras; telescopes; computers;
GPS units; microscopes; solar panels;
Lego; weather systems; and specific
software for movie production, sound
recording, CADD, podcasts, Webcasts,
graphic design, publishing,
Program Goals: First,
Girls Get IT and VOiCE
engage female, minority,
or rural students in
hands-on STEM experiences.
Second, the programs
seek to sustain
students’ interest and
achievement in STEM
core academic courses,
ultimately increasing their comfort
level and confidence in pursuing STEM
majors and careers.
“Young people need to be able to
tear things apart and put them back
together, and the best place for that
kind of exploration is, many times, outside
of the classroom,” says Heather
Beaven, CEO of The Foundation.
How Executed: Girls Get IT and
VOiCE use after-school and summeracademy
components to increase students’
achievement in STEM-related
courses and careers.
|The Girls Get IT program uses after-school and summer-academy components to increase student achievement in STEM.
“We created the framework; afterschool,
stipend the teacher for their
time, give the group the basic tools
they need to do cool stuff, and give
them an incentive to do it,” Beaven
says. “Then we let each club fill in
the blanks [e.g., a cop turned teacher
has a crime-scene-investigation GGIT
club]. The teachers, principals, students,
and parents agree to participate
in our data collection so we can measure
Program Results: Girls Get IT has
delivered a 21 percent increase in the
number of girls who say they “will”
study science in college; a 45 percent
increase in the number who “will”
graduate with a degree in science, and
a 39 percent increase in the number
who “will” make a significant scientific
contribution in their careers.
“Girls Get IT taught me to work
hard and keep at it,” says 16-yearold
Summer Woshko, owner of Snail’s
Surf Board Repair.
Grants Received: Girls Get IT and
VOiCE have dozens of local and national
Oyster River High School,
Durham, New Hampshire
Description of STEM Program:
Applying technology to the sciences of
anatomy and physiology. This program
is aimed at seniors who are interested
in college-level education in medicine,
dentistry, occupational therapy,
physical therapy, nursing, or athletic
Tools Used: The money from three
grants was used to outfit the classroom
with an interactive whiteboard.
Anatomy and physiology probeware
from Vernier Software & Technology
was purchased for studying the muscular
system, cardiovascular system,
and respiratory system.
|The STEM program at Oyster River High School applies technology to the sciences of anatomy and physiology.
Program Goal: Have students
experience hands-on science that is
directly related to a field of study that
they will pursue in college.
“Students are expected to think
outside the box and use the criticalthinking
and problem-solving skills
that have been developed throughout
their education,” says Celeste Best,
science teacher at the high school.
How Executed: Students begin the
year with a lot of structure and guided
questions to help them plan and
execute their ideas, but as the year
progresses, more freedom and less
guidance are given.
“In the early stages, the focus is
often on the technology and how to
use it properly, but as we progress, the
emphasis becomes on the science, and
the use of the technology is simply a
tool to achieve a goal,” Best says.
Program Results: “Students learn
to apply the knowledge that they gain
from their studies,” Best says. “They
learn to be reliant on their own intellect
and critical-thinking ability, and
they become strong communicators
through their work in research groups
as well as through their presentations.”
|A conceptual drawing of the Green Schoolhouse concept “Safari” showing how students imagine that the school’s interior space would be designed.
Grants Received: Three Title IID
Classroom Mini Grants totaling $20,000
School, Washington School
Description of STEM Program:
Roadrunner Elementary uses the free
STEM education curriculum offered
by NASA via the Green Schoolhouse
Series program. The Green
Schoolhouse Series is building and
donating to Roadrunner a state-ofthe-
art, LEED Platinum schoolhouse
with a STEM classroom.
Tools Used: HDTV flat panels;
satellite receiving equipment; electronic
whiteboards donated by Marsh
Industries, Inc.; audiovisual equipment
donated by Extron Electronics
Program Goal: Improve educational
opportunities for students by using
free STEM programs.
How Executed: Flat-screen televisions
were installed to facilitate satellite
learning with the NASA channel.
In addition, exchange programs were
established in which students from
all over the world can link up by using
donated Cisco systems.
Program Results: To be determined.
Grants Received? No grants, but
the program is sponsored by DeVry
Tutorspree, New York, NY
Description of STEM Program: Intro
to Computer Programming and Intro
to Video Game Design
“These classes are designed to
teach kids how to do cool things
with technology right now,” says
Ryan Bednar, cofounder and CTO of
Tools Used: Initial classes can
actually be handled with paper and
pen. “Most people don’t realize that a
lot of what you need to know to start
coding can be learned without a computer,”
says Aaron Harris, cofounder
of Tutorspree. Afterward, “any modern
computer will do. All you need is a few
easily available programs—a text editor,
Program Goals: In all of New York
City, only 1,102 kids took AP Computer
Science in 2010—that’s out of 180,000
total tests taken.
|Students learn computer programming at Tutorspree.
“We want to fix that by starting the
process of building more programmers,”
Harris says. “These first two
classes are a pilot designed to test
whether we can effectively provide that
type of education outside the traditional
How Executed: The program is
a series of classes programmed as
after-school activities in New York
City. The classes are run by highly
effective educators. The program
is “totally repeatable” by schools,
Harris says, but they need access to
the right teachers and to materials
supplied by Tutorspree.
Program Results: Not available yet.
Grants Received? No.