Expanding STEM Programs to Continue Building 21st Century Skills

Apr 29, 2015 Education

According to Brian White, Ed.D., Superintendent at Chartiers Valley School District (CVSD), "a lot has happened" since we spoke with him for an article last May titled "Adopting STEM Strategies to Build 21st Century Skills." At the time, CVSD had launched several program to make STEM learning opportunities available to K-12 students including the high-school based Engineering Academy in conjunction with Project Lead The Way (PLTW), a leading provider of STEM programs that provides curriculum and teacher professional development.

The Engineering Academy is comprised of rigorous and relevant courses from Chartiers Valley and PLTW. This project-based curriculum is designed to provide students with the foundation they need to become the next generation of leaders and innovators in our community and beyond

According to White, the Engineering Academy continues to grow, and was recently recognized by the FETC STEM Advisory Board as one of the top ten STEM programs in the country. In a statement to Chartiers Valley High School, FETC said, "the board evaluated over a hundred applications for your finalist position and was impressed by the innovation and educational impact of your STEM program! Your school is among the Top 10 STEM Programs in the Nation! We are very proud of your accomplishment and want to share your success with the entire education community."

While White and the CVSD are honored by the recognition, they are not resting on their laurels.

This upcoming school year, CVSD is launching a PLTW Biomedical Science program. In the two high school classes, students will explore a range of careers in biomedical sciences as they learn content in the context of real-world, hands-on activities, projects and problems.

The district is also launching the PLTW Computer Science Program, designed to inspire students to consider the endless possibilities in careers that use computing.

Based on the success of STEM programs at CVSD, White has been building a consortium of teachers and school districts in Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio to work together on a regional basis and share best practices. CVSD is certified by PLTW to be a regional training center for schools offering PLTW programs, and its partnering institution of higher education is WVU College of Engineering. This regional training center will be the hub for the PLTW consortium.

White says that with Chevron entering the field to provide funding for PLTW, CVSD is also encouraging other colleagues to consider registering for the program.

"This year, we explained the PLTW program to a lot of schools and hosted several visitors to the Engineering Academy classes, where reps from other school districts could talk to teachers about why these courses are different and how they benefit kids," says White. "As a result, and with grants from Chevron, a lot of the school districts are now in process adopting PLTW."

Another boost for the consortium is a partnership program between CVSD and West Virginia University (WVU) for a PLTW training center for professional development. WVU faculty members will conduct training at Chartiers Valley for all teachers in the consortium.

There are still more programs underway to adopt STEM strategies at CVSD and build the necessary skills for students to succeed in the 21st century.

White was excited to share news that CVSD has been accepted to participate in NMSI (National Science and Math Institute) along with five other schools in the region.

"NMSI provides intensive training to AP teachers in the areas of math, science and English, and provides incentives for student performance and the acquisition of additional equipment," explains White. "The program includes Saturday study sessions to help students get more hands-on experience with math and science."

"This program is very synergistic with our Engineering Academy," says White. "Enhancing mathematical skills helps shore up the Engineering Academy."

Looking back at the accomplishments and activities of the last year, White sums it up, "It's all coming together."