Realizing the need to "Ensure strong and Strategic National Leadership," the White House has set a goal to "Create 1,000 new STEM schools over the next decade." In response to this call, Spring Valley Elementary will be re-vamping part of its educational program starting in fall of 2013.
"I'm in full support of STEM," said Bob Nelson, Chawanakee Unified School District superintendent. "We're kind of in the business of kids that will have jobs that don't even exist yet. This helps get them in right frame of mind for careers that are being developed right now. We want to teach them to think about tech and how it will impact their career."
The Spring Valley STEM Project -- STEM is an acronym for the study of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics -- will be piloted this coming school year in 4-8th grade and will be co-coordinated by the 4-5th grade teacher Nicole Bush and the 6-8th grade science teacher Ryan Collings. The goal will be to extend this program to serve grades TK-8 in the coming years.
The Spring Valley STEM Project will be more than just a focus on four areas of study. It will be a highly integrated approach to learning where students are challenged to apply ideas, thought processes, and problem solving in all classes. With heavy teacher collaboration, the lines between disciplines will be blurred to encourage students to think in a more holistic way, rather than being compartmentalized into classes that rarely overlap. A cross-curricular approach increases the number of connections that a student can make to an idea, making it both more useful and easier to recall while a collaborative approach allows for better articulation between classes and grade levels.
The culture of the classroom will look different as well. Students will be the driving force during investigations and will frequently have the freedom to pursue ideas that interest them individually. Spring Valley will offer iPad Minis for students in fifth through eighth grade with the option to rent, own, or bring their own iPad. They will be used during most of the day to record new information, thoughts, observations, and data with the goal being to illuminate the individual student thought process and have a single place for all learning to be collected.
"This fits well with the new Common Core Standards focus on reading more informational text and creating arguments that heavily rely on evidence," Collings said. "The classroom will be a dynamic place where students are expected to read, observe, connect ideas, problem solve, create, reason, write, collaborate, research, and more at a high level."