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Focusing on STEM throughout the District

Jobs. Jobs that pay enough to raise a family. Jobs with stability and staying power to survive shifting economic winds. Jobs with potential for future raises and promotions. Jobs that are careers – enjoyable, challenging, rewarding.

Jobs like that are what educators want for their students, what parents want for their children and what mayors want for their cities. In the 21st century, many jobs like that require STEM – Science, Technology, Engineering and Math education. The U.S. Department of Commerce predicts that STEM jobs will grow 17 percent to 1.2 million jobs by 2018, the year today’s high school freshmen graduate. According to The American Solar Energy Society, the renewable energy and energy efficiency industry may create more than 37 million jobs by 2030. Locally, the industries with the highest job-creation potential are health care, agricultural, manufacturing, transportation and logistics, and scientific and technical services.
Calvin Coolidge 5th grade science
Calvin Coolidge 5th grader Myles Andrews
studies bat ecosystems and habitat. 
 
What exactly are STEM careers? The Commerce Department breaks STEM occupations into broad areas:
  • computer and math occupations – jobs focused on computers, software and databases;
  • engineering and surveying occupations – jobs focused on manufacturing, construction, infrastructure, transportation and energy;
  • physical and life sciences occupations which includes jobs in health care, medicine, agriculture, food and nutrition.
WCTC Culinary Arts
WCTC recently installed new equipment for the Culinary Arts program.
Jobs involving food and nutrition are among STEM professions expected to grow in coming years. 
 
District 150 is focusing energy and resources on STEM education at all grade levels. If you drill down in each of those careers, science, technology, engineering and math are all integrated together.
 
Middle school students in District 150 are exposed to STEM in the Growing Up Ready (GUR) Labs, the STEM Action Labs and in Science Fusion. The District has made expanding these middle school STEM labs a priority for the 2014-15 school year. STEM Action Labs consist of 12 – 15 computer workstations, each of which represents a module.The GUR labs consist of 16 modules that include Science in the Kitchen, math in the Kitchen and Food Science and Nutrition.  In these modules there is a strong focus on how science, engineering and math interact.   The Action Labs allow the students to explore different areas of STEM.  There are 22 modules and each module consists of 10 integrated instructional units which are completed in 10 days.
 
As the school year progresses, students move through the modules, working in teams. Among the module topics are flight and rockets, robotics, architecture, computer animation, forensic science, structural engineering, information and technology, computer drafting and alternative energy. In both GUR and Action labs (commonly referred to as Paxton-Patterson labs), students are doing hands-on activities, solving real world problems and creating and testing products as it relates to the instructional unit.
 
Harrison STEM 1   Harrison STEM 2  Washington stem 1  RA STEM 1
 Students at Harrison, Washington and Rolling Acres work on STEM modules. 
 
 
Although the District’s priority for 2014-15 specifically addresses middle school STEM labs, the focus on science and math starts much earlier. For example, Mrs. Danage’s first-grade class at Hines Primary School recently designed and built marble runs to learn about Forces and Energy in Science Fusion. The students made predictions on how fast their marbles would go and then tested the accuracy of their predictions. The class winner was the marble run with the steepest incline and a straight path of motion.

High school students have access to career-focused engineering and technical classes at their home high schools as well as at Woodruff Career and Technical Center (WCTC). Many of these programs give students the opportunity to experience college-level academic work and receive college credit through advanced placement (AP) or dual credit classes and often focus on building important “soft” or business skills highly desired by employers. In addition, students who participate in the WCTC programs can continue their education at Illinois Central College (ICC) and be ready to pursue a technical profession within two years.

STEM at District 150 is not just a school-day endeavor. For the past two summers, the District has hosted a free STEM camp for 5th grade students. This year’s camp brought High Ability Learner’s from throughout the District to Lincoln K-8 for a week of science and technology, including a field trip to the Wheels ‘O’ Time transportation museum. During the school year, students at every level have a variety of math, science and technology extracurricular activities to participate in, including Math Counts, Destination Imagination and Lego League.
STEM camp auto races
Students attending this summer's STEM camp
race paper autos they designed and built.
 
 
Partnerships with colleges, universities, businesses and community organizations give District 150 students frequent contact with role models in STEM fields. Trewyn K-8 classes and Scout troops receive regular visits by nursing students from Bradley University and Methodist College to talk about good health habits, nutrition as well as healthcare careers. The Peoria Public Schools Foundation Horizons Club, with 400 student members in five middle schools, also introduces students to professionals in STEM fields.

Starting in January, 2015, the District will be sponsoring a six week STEM program where students will have a chance to work with local engineers to explore the different types of engineers.   More information will be coming soon.