November 15, 2016 – Four Colorado middle schools were selected to participate in a pilot to implement and improve STEM classes with project-based learning. Mentors will work with teachers to create projects that solve real-world, industry-designed challenges — a project that is expected to reach more than 100 students.
“We’re very lucky to have partners like The Boeing Company and Lockheed Martin that are donating their time, talent, and financial resources to partner with teachers in their STEM classrooms,” said STEM director Angela Baber. “Our other partner in this project is the University of Northern Colorado (UNC) to measure the impact and outcomes of industry and school partnerships. We’ll figure out what works and what doesn’t as we begin to build these types of partner models that widen our state’s talent pipeline to support our STEM workforce.”
The STEM pilot middle schools include:
Hamilton Middle School teacher Terry McGregor said his school can benefit from the guidance of a mentor and industry partner to prepare students for the Center for Communication Technology Magnet program offered at Thomas Jefferson High School.
“Teachers and students will learn from this pilot,” said McGregor. “I’m excited to develop and implement problem-solving and project-based learning to engage students and drive their exploration and critical-thinking.”
In Cherry Creek Schools, Prairie Middle School science coordinator Jeff Cazier was looking for a way to increase the impact of current district STEM initiatives and coaching.
“Many of our teachers are very involved in STEM through their content classes and we thought a mentor would be a great addition to the programs we currently run,” said Cazier.
Cazier said he hoped teachers could learn just as much from mentors as the students.
“I want teachers to see what STEM skills look like outside of their classroom walls and see STEM skills being used by real-world professionals,” Cazier said. “It’s fantastic that our students will have the ability to become involved in learning that has connections to the world outside of education by having access to a STEM professional.”
Teacher Marshall Woody has taught science for 28 years on Colorado Springs School District 11 now teaches a course called Gateway to Technology.
“I’m excited as a teacher to collaborate with industry professionals,” he said. “I’m also hoping our students start to see connections to STEM in the world around them and be inspired to excel in other academic areas.”
Industry mentors are just as excited about this project as teachers and students are.
“This is a unique opportunity for students to understand what aerospace engineers do on the job, and mentoring the students offers Boeing employees a chance to give back to the community,” said Boeing Colorado Site Director David Eddy. “As engineers, we use the same problem-solving techniques and teamwork we are teaching the students. Engaging them in hands-on learning and critical thinking will help them succeed. I hope students will be excited about STEM and become future engineers and scientists.”
“Through this STEM mentorship program, we hope to spark greater interest in fields like math and engineering to inspire the next generation of innovators who will lead us through the 21st century and beyond,” said Lockheed Engineering Director Blake Davis.
The Colorado Education Initiative is an independent nonprofit working in partnership with the Colorado Department of Education, educators, schools, districts, and other public education stakeholders to accelerate educational improvement and innovation across Colorado. CEI envisions that every student in Colorado is prepared and unafraid to succeed in school, work, and life, and ready to take on the challenges of today, tomorrow, and beyond.