Boosting STEM Delivery In Schools

Posted on October 11, 2013 by  
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STEM at Gardner BullisIt’s not unusual to see kindergartners in Los Altos School District classrooms this year learning the basics of robot programming.

Supported by funding from the Los Altos Educational Foundation, the school district hired a Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) teacher for each elementary school campus.

Content and classroom-to-classroom needs drive the program, still in its early stages. The main focus of the STEM teachers this year is to assist in physical science instruction, introduce computational-thinking activities and host Making/Tinkering lunch clubs.

“The idea now is to have a STEM teacher who is really helping in a co-teaching situation to provide cross-disciplinary lessons where students have to use design challenges to solve real-world problems using science, technology, engineering and math,” said Alyssa Gallagher, district director of strategic initiatives and community partnerships.

Kindergartners through second-graders use Bee-Bot robots and iPad applications as the basis for their computational thinking. Third- and fourth-graders use LEGO WeDo, a more advanced robotics tool, and scratch programming to advance toward 3D design in fifth grade and computer science in sixth grade.

The STEM teachers also contribute to the science curriculum by supplementing each classroom teacher’s physical science instruction. The goal is for classroom and STEM teachers to collaborate to add experiments beyond the previous offerings, said Karen Wilson, STEM coach for the school district.

Gallagher said the STEM enhancements meet the new Common Core State Standards and Next Generation Science Standards, recently adopted by the California Department of Education.

Both Wilson and Gallagher stressed that the program is a work in progress, but added that they are excited to be on the cutting edge of delivering STEM to students. They have been asked to discuss the district’s STEM program at a statewide conference.

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