In 2006, President George Bush stood before the American people and announced a new plan to better prepare students for careers in math, science and technology.
It was called the American Competitiveness Initiative and it promised to improve science and mathematics education in classrooms around the country.
Since then STEM programs have sprung up in thousands of schools, aiming to close America’s achievement gap and make graduates more competitive in a global marketplace. This year, Novato’s San Marin High School opened a similar program, enrolling 60 freshmen. The school hopes to eventually expand the program to 200 students.
The focus with STEM is getting kids to think creatively about problems and use critical skills, collaboration and good communication, the so-called "4 Cs", to solve them.
“We really want to get students to think rather than spoon-feeding them information,” said Adam Littlefield, principal of San Marin High School. “So the role of the teacher becomes a facilitator rather than just information provider. When we put these amazing minds together, its amazing what they can come up with.”
The program offers physics, engineering and Algebra 2 as a block class and relies on “project-based learning,” using a model from the Buck Institute of Education. That means asking students about what issue they’re trying to solve, then figuring out the steps to tackle it, whether it’s a design problem or calculation.
“What I’ve seen is a greater level of student achievement and that’s what we’re looking for,” said Littlefield who was previously the principal of Technology High School in Rohnert Park.
This Thursday, San Marin STEM students will present their Rube Goldberg machines, including a pencil launcher and a machine that can push a toy car forward to show they understand how to manipulate kinetic energy. A Rube Goldberg machine is anything that uses an elaborate contraption to do a simple task and is named after American cartoonist and inventor Rube Goldberg.
The event starts at 6:30pm at the San Marin High School Library.
Applications for the San Marin STEM program will be available December 1.
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