Looking to instill a passion for science

Jessica Baker, Guest Column

According to the United States Department of Labor’s projections, by 2018 – in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields – jobs will grow 34 percent, with 2.7 million new jobs being created.

As the job market changes, it is imperative for us to ensure that all our graduates are not only prepared for the jobs of today, but also for the jobs of tomorrow. This has been the motivation behind the development of Ursuline Academy’s STEM initiative.

The partnership that began with grades K-4 over the past year will expand into both the middle school and high school divisions in the 2017-18 school year, making Ursuline the first all-girls school in the state to implement a full K-12 engineering and computer science pathway using the Project Lead the Way (PLTW) program.

PLTW is recognized nationally as a leader in preparing students for success in college-level technology and engineering coursework along with industry specific work skills.

The goal of integrating this program across the Academy is to develop within our students not only a passion for STEM from an early age, but also the skill base necessary to excel in the field upon graduation.

As our girls develop basic skills, they will be able to build upon them consistently as they progress from one academic year to the next, ultimately resulting in unique opportunities for special STEM recognitions from the College Board AP program along with college scholarship opportunities reserved specifically for PLTW students. They will learn to use engineering notebooks and 3D modeling software, in addition to the Sphero robots already utilized in middle school robotics.

Students will also have opportunities to design apps, create computer programs and games, gain an understanding of how the internet works, learn programming languages and much more.

For the first year of integration, courses such as Medical Detectives and Energy & the Environment in middle school, and AP Computer Science Principals in high school will be added to the schedule, along with gateway programs to help the girls currently not participating in PLTW to catch up to the advances in curriculum.

Jessica Baker is a high school biology teacher and Ursuline’s director of curriculum.

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