City Schools Seeks Governor’s Seal For STEM Programs
Posted: January 26, 2013
Andy Jackson, Harrisonburg High School STEM Academy co-director, helps Tucker Wyatt, 15, (center) and A.K. Koyee, 14, Wednesday. (Photos by Nikki Fox / DN-R)
Harrisonburg High School STEM Academy freshmen Douglas Ritcher (right), 15, and Robert Heitsch, 14, work on a planetary motion assignment Wednesday afternoon. STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and mathematics, which Gov. Bob McDonnell and educators are emphasizing in Virginia’s schools.
If it does, it will come along with an added air of distinction: The division will be the first in the state recognized by McDonnell for having a special program for elementary, middle and high school students. Sixteen academies are now operating in the state, but all are for middle or high school students.
“This is the first attempt to have a pathway from elementary through high school,” said Patrick Lintner, executive director of instruction for the division.
The goal of the state’s STEM academies is to increase opportunities for students to pursue those areas of study and in the process prepare them for “high-demand, high-wage, and high-skill careers in Virginia,” according to the Virginia Department of Education website.
After being elected governor in 2009, McDonnell vowed to double the number of STEM academies in the state, a goal he completed in October.
To have the Harrisonburg STEM programs endorsed by the governor, the division has to submit a formal proposal that will be reviewed by the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia and approved by the Virginia Board of Education.
If successful, the division would receive $5,000 to put toward the STEM academy, which has an approximate $85,000 start-up cost.
The division completed its proposal on Jan. 8, which includes information about curriculum and how the academy is partnering with businesses and higher education institutions, among other information.
The plan will be officially presented to the Virginia Board of Education on March 28.
The division’s journey toward getting a governor’s STEM academy began in 2010, when the division started researching academies and making visits to school systems with similar programs.
In 2011, the division started to develop its own plan and this school year STEM programs are in place at every city school.
At Harrisonburg High School, 22 freshmen have a day that is half academy, half electives. Students take a tailored course load each year; for freshmen, that consists of English, technology, algebra and physics.
The academy is less intensive at lower grade levels.
At Thomas Harrison and Skyline middle schools, the STEM Explorations academies have a couple of hours of instruction in science and engineering each day.
At the elementary level, STEM is emphasized through hands-on and problem-based projects that have been added to normal curriculum. Three elementary schools had the program, called integrative STEM, in the 2011-12 school year and the division’s other two elementary schools started programs in fall 2012.
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