Overview of the STEM Early College High School
The United States’ National Academy of Engineering designated fourteen Grand Challenges for Engineering (www.engineeringchallenges.org) that provide a thematic focus for our science/engineering design courses in grades 9-12 (we teach an engineering design course attached to each of our four science courses–year long, 2 course credits). The other letters of the STEM acronym (“TEM”) are integrated into our teaching/learning by incorporating the meaningful use of technology (1:1 laptops, “flipped” classrooms), the engineering design process in all classes, and the teaching of integrated mathematics courses rather than the traditional “silo-ed” algebra, geometry, etc. courses.
A “true” STEM school not only integrates across the disciplines of STEM, but also includes significant emphasis on the humanities that includes the economic, ethical, legal, political, social, and sustainability concepts that form the basis of humanities teaching. Our humanities teachers select curricular materials that relate to the Grand Challenges (GCs) being taught in the STEM “core” classes that allows them to teach both the humanities issues related to a given Grand Challenge and their required North Carolina state curricula.
An integrated curricula focused on the Grand Challenges is the first leg of the “three-legged stool” metaphor that one can use to describe the STEM ECHS. The other two “legs” are Project-based Learning and the development of the “whole child” through the teaching of Socratic Seminar techniques, college readiness attributes, and career awareness and preparation through career exploration, job shadowing, student internships/teacher externships, and a culminating graduation project in the fifth year (we are an early college).
By Robert H. Matheson III – GGCS education session panelist
Principal of the STEM Early College High School