As the real world changes as does the need for schools to offer different types of classes for students. One such way schools across the state and country are looking to improve upon the education of students is through the use courses in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (S.T.E.M.) as an interdisciplinary approach to teaching.
Smyrna School District took the district's first foray into a new S.T.E.M. program this year with a class at Smyrna Middle School and hope to add a S.T.E.M. pathway to the high school in the fall of 2014.
Smyrna School District Curriculum Director Sandy Shalk discussed the S.T.E.M. program at the November school board meeting. The district has a S.T.E.M. committee working on incorporating the program into the district.
"We're very excited about these classes," Shalk said. "We know it's time to grow in that area."
The committee is hoping the S.T.E.M. program will encourage middle school students to continue on to Smyrna High School rather than attend other schools in the area.
The middle school is in the midst of the school's first S.T.E.M. class. It is taught by Roger Holt. Each course is one semester long, and includes both seventh and eighth graders.
Thus far students in the class have built a solar heater with soda cans and a car. To bring in the biology aspect of S.T.E.M., students will also dissect baby sharks and fetal pigs. The course work will be rotated every two years so that seventh graders can take the class again in eighth grade and yet learn something different.
Holt said the class is something the teachers have been pushing for. He said having the courses in the middle school, and eventually the high school, will allow the students in the district to compete with other students at other schools.
The students in the class are enjoying it so far. Keegan Holt said he's learning something he wouldn't get the chance to in other science classes.
His classmates agreed with him.
"It opens up new opportunities for you later in life if you're interested in doing engineering," said Romy Patel. "This isn't cookie cutter science work."
Ryan Wheatley likes the class because he gets to do hands-on work where the students are building something and figuring it out themselves.
Earlier this fall the class was visited by U.S. Rep. John Carney. Carney was in the district visiting Clayton Intermediate School when he was informed of a middle school class building a solar heater. During Carney's visit, Holt said the representative stated the importance of S.T.E.M. classes as they prepare students for jobs after school.
This is exactly why Smyrna School District officials are looking for more ways to incorporate S.T.E.M. into the curriculum.
Shalk said the proposed courses for the pathway are inventions and innovations, world health and disease, and science and economics. Moreover, some of the S.T.E.M. concepts are already being taught in some Smyrna High classes.
Along with the S.T.E.M. pathway, Shalk said at the November board meeting that the curriculum department is proposing a new medical pathway. He said employment data shows there's a need in the medical field; moreover, healthcare offices in Smyrna offer a wealth of possible internships for students.
"We're trying to do something we haven't done already with new science standards," Superintendent Debbie Wicks said at the meeting.
Email Jennifer Dailey at firstname.lastname@example.org.