What is STEM:
STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. The key component of STEM is the integration of well-rounded lessons and inquiry-based projects woven together through practical, seamless methods. STEM aligns the way we work and problem-solve in our daily lives. It makes an exceptional tool for teacher instruction and student learning. This style of teaching allows students to think critically, learn to collaborate with others, and to evaluate information in real-world problem-solving methods.
The teaching faculty and classified staff of Lewis Cass Junior High School recognize our responsibility to prepare students to become effective members of society by establishing an educational atmosphere that encourages academic, physical, emotional, and social development. From the founding of our corporation, it has been our mission to continually improve our schools so as to better prepare our students for their futures. Over the last several years, Lewis Cass Schools has taken progressive steps to strengthen its academic programs, modernize technology, and update campus facilities of the Senior High School, Junior High School and Elementary School. Implementing STEM education was the next step to enhancing student learning. We want to encourage students to become independent learners by actively participating in hands-on projects where they can effectively solve problems by asking questions, proposing ideas, and persevering through mistakes. By utilizing this alternative learning style, students will gain the skills and knowledge required to succeed in today’s challenging world.
With the incorporation of STEM, teachers can put a strong emphasis on cross-curricular instruction on a daily basis. STEM teacher teams have benefited from professional development where they learned various techniques for STEM implementation and collaboration with area STEM certified schools to gather input and ideas for project and curriculum development. In addition, a common work time is scheduled so teachers can collaborate together on a weekly basis to create and organize STEM projects and activities that are implemented every nine weeks. Our students work on projects or activities that correlate with elements of the yearly selected STEM goal/driving question. By using project-based learning, students develop communication and collaboration skills as they work as a team to complete each task. Hands-on projects/activities are completed in our STEM Makerspace Lab; this lab is the newest addition to the STEM program and houses materials, completed projects, and tools, and offers space for additional teaching areas. All students are given equal opportunities to participate and this instruction time is protected so that minority students receive the same benefits. To evaluate the effectiveness of STEM instruction, surveys and questionnaires are conducted with students and parents on a regular basis via Google survey and Canvas. These assessments measure interest and attitudes about STEM, and knowledge about specific areas of STEM instruction all of which is information used to improve the STEM program.
College & Careers
Career exploration is a key component of our STEM program as well. School counselors administer a variety of interest assessments that educate students on STEM careers and help them identify graduation pathways that suit their skill sets and interests. Junior high students are included in a school-wide career fair where they are encouraged to explore jobs and interact with professionals. The high school extends STEM opportunities with classes offered through the Lewis Cass Polytechnic Academy.
New courses that supplement STEM education are continually being added to the junior high class list. Most recent additions include: PLTW courses in Computer Applications, Medical Detectives, and Automation and Robotics. As a support to students who elect to attend college; we included college prep, honors, and advanced placement courses in all core subject areas and in many of our elective areas.
In 2016, Lewis Cass Schools instituted a 1:1 initiative where all students would have an individual computer used in all instruction, research, and experimentation. Technology is the avenue that connects students to the option of interactive learning through a variety of apps and programs such as Google docs, slides, sheets and meets. Each classroom is equipped with a 75” Promethean board that is powered by Smart technology, and our media center houses 3D printers, GoPro cameras, and video production equipment. Our improved use of technology affords our students and parents greater access to class materials, school and academic information, and virtual learning opportunities; all of which act as a tool for greater learning and teaching possibilities; more so than our students and faculty have had ever before.
Future enhancements to the STEM program include: updates to our school facilities and in particular to the STEM Makerspace Lab, implementation of extended learning opportunities like Genius Hour, and increasing STEM exposure to under-represented groups through programs like GEMs in STEM. We also want to expand our collaboration with the Lewis Cass Polytechnic Academy to utilize laboratory resources and create new class offerings that will help us continue to meet the needs of our students. The STEM teaching team members will continue to be offered professional development to keep abreast of new ideas and teaching strategies. We would like to grow our cooperative relationships with our community partners to gain valuable real world insight and resources to help support our STEM program. We would like to also utilize these community partner relationships to develop a career exploration program in which students can do some short term job shadowing activity. Another goal for future improvement would be to widen the scope of our STEM program by including the yearly STEM goal/driving questions and activities in the curriculum of our elective courses. This would allow us to further broaden the impact of STEM topics in other facets of education.