The Middle School’s Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) program teaches the 21st Century skills students will need for the burgeoning number of tech-dependent jobs they will encounter after college. STEM-trained educators are strategically advancing the competencies of Middle Schoolers as they advance into rigorous Upper School science and math curricula.
STEM has been incorporated into math and science classes throughout the Middle School, but the focus of the STEM program is a pair of classes that help seventh and eighth graders make a connection between science, technology, engineering and math as they apply skills learned in the classroom to hands-on projects.
“We incorporate what they are studying in math and science class, and they’re able to utilize it to meet a challenge,” says Science Teacher Megan Rademacher. “We put a lot of the emphasis on math, making sure that the design challenges are very heavily math-based, because we want to make sure they are applying math standards and skills. This gives them extra practice so that when they come across a problem in the future, they’ll know how to go about solving it.”
For example, one challenge asks students to develop a ball launcher that would enable a paraplegic with limited mobility to play fetch with a service dog. Each team of four students must work through the engineering design process: stating the problem, brainstorming ideas to solve the problem, conducting research, creating a design, building a prototype, testing and redesigning. Students must review scientific forces acting upon the ball, such as potential and kinetic energy. They also must examine math principles to determine if different angles will create a “function” so they can predict how far the ball will go.
STEM emphasis in the Middle School is also enhanced by a robust math curriculum which advances students through higher level classes when they are ready and offers the opportunity for high-school level math classes while they are still in the Middle School.
The STEM program also teaches students how to work in a team in anticipation of meeting a workforce demand for employees who not only connect science with math in real-world applications but also work well in teams. That certainly was the message Mrs. Rademacher received at the Dayton Regional STEM Center. “We met with engineers and scientists,” says Mrs. Rademacher. “They said the most important skills that children need to have are the abilities to collaborate, cooperate, compromise and listen to each other’s ideas. They need to be able to take a risk and fail. They need to be able to learn from their failures and persist to find solutions. That’s how new ideas happen. Here at The Summit, we are offering our students real-life practice of those skills that they will need, so they are successful in whatever they do.”