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NCTL's Gateway Inspires "STEM Academy" for Eighth-Graders

January 05, 2012

Inspired in August by the Gateway to Technology and Engineering Project (part of the Museum of Science's National Center for Technological Literacy®), seven teachers and 88 eighth graders (46 of whom are girls) are immersed in an unusual "STEM Academy." This new pilot program integrates these students into the Dennis-Yarmouth, Mass., Regional High School in science, technology, engineering, and math.

"While there are many STEM programs across Massachusetts, ours is unique in that it's housed at the high school," English language arts teacher Kate Ryan told the Dennis Register in October.

"The vision for their STEM Academy grew out of the strategic action plan they created using tools they learned in a Gateway Institute," says Yvonne Spicer, director of Gateway and Museum vice president for advocacy and educational partnerships. The Gateway Project assists school districts in developing strategic action plans to implement rigorous and engaging K-12 technology and engineering programs at all grade levels.

The STEM Academy team includes four eighth-grade teachers from the Wixon Middle School in South Dennis, two high school instructional technology teachers, and a chemistry teacher. For STEM classes every second day along with the rest of their curriculum, students chose hands-on projects requiring critical math and science skills involving robotics, the PBS Design Squad, or solving an engineering problem using the Engineering is Elementary® design process.

Spicer said students' MCAS scores might improve as a result of this initiative. "Dennis-Yarmouth has gotten off to a good start. Now you will see if this ups students' ability to grasp concepts. It's also important for students to see how what they are learning applies outside school." Referring to the 2012 National Engineers Week Future City competition, she suggested that teachers invite public works superintendents to speak about their jobs.

Originating in Massachusetts, the Gateway Project has been replicated across the U.S. as a model to build leadership capacity for technological literacy. Designed to guide systemic change, Gateway includes "best practices" sessions to increase capacity across districts, in-district support, and access to special workshops and symposiums. As of August 31, 2011, the Gateway community totaled over 400 educational leaders representing 80 urban, suburban, and rural school districts. For more information, contact gateway@mos.org or call 617-589-3100.

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The Museum of Science, Boston

  1 Science Park, Boston, MA 02114  phone: 617-723-2500   information@mos.org