Branching out into STEM Schools

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Camp pic

This year the students at one Vancouver Island school have ditched the pens and paper to get their hands dirty— participating in an experimental learning curriculum built upon a mission to nourish young peoples’ passion for science.

Elizabeth Buckley school in Victoria has reportedly become the first STE(A)M school in Canada, adopting a curriculum rooted in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math—the school, technically also incorporating Arts into its core subject roster, aligns with STEM’s sister/sub- curriculum: STEAM. (‘Arts’ includes Visual Arts, Music, Dramatic Play, social responsibility, global citizenship and meaningful contributions in community.)

“Our STE(A)M school provides an emphasis on exploration, with STEM subjects interwoven with literacy, humanities, and physical activity. We set [learning] up as more of a discovery learning activity,” the school’s principal Roberta MacDonald told Metro News in August.

Part of the British Columbia school’s inspiration to adopt a STE(A)M teaching method was to counteract the broadly documented wide and sudden gender gaps in math and science that occur in kids around junior high school. It is theorized that social-emotional self-confidence issues and dissatisfaction with the way science is presented contribute to the quick drop of girls’ interest and participation in the maths and sciences. (Princeton University study)

“It’s really important for us to support [girls] in the elementary grade [STEM subjects] so that as they go into middle school, they already feel very confident and competent in those subjects.” MacDonald said.

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STEM schools have been gaining steam across the U.S. for a few years.

The National Research Council’s 2010 report, “Successful K-12 STEM Education: Identifying Effective Approaches in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics” identifies these long range goals for the country’s K-12 STEM education:

  • Expand the number of students who ultimately pursue advanced degrees and careers in STEM fields and broaden the participation of women and minorities in those fields.
  • Expand the STEM-capable workforce and broaden the participation of women and minorities in that workforce.
  • Increase STEM literacy for all students, including those who do not pursue STEM-related careers or additional study in the STEM disciplines.