The Carnegie Science Center has selected ten local school districts to become partners with its Carnegie STEM Excellence Pathway program.
The ten-member “cohort” consists of the Allegheny Valley, Avonworth, Baldwin-Whitehall, Bethel Park, Elizabeth Forward, Montour, Plum Borough, Shaler Area and West Allegheny school districts, as well as the A.W. Beattie Career Center.
The STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) Excellence Pathway Program offers resources and a “strategic planning process” to K-12 schools for improving their STEM education, according to Alana Kulesa, director of strategic education initiatives at the Carnegie Science Center.
Kulesa said each member district will appoint a STEM leadership team of 6-10 individuals to will attend academic workshops. Those workshops will include topics such as professional development and curriculum planning for teachers.
The leadership teams should not be made up entirely of school administrators, she said.
“[We want] classroom teachers, and not just classroom teachers from their math and science department,” Kulesa said. “We really encourage innovative thinkers no matter what specific content their expertise may be in.”
She said that while this program is primarily for educators, students profit as well.
“There’s certainly a trickle-down effect,” Kulesa said. “The end goal for all this is that every individual student … [is] benefiting from their school’s advanced opportunities and offerings in STEM.”
STEM programs in elementary and high schools require improvements in how students are engaged and taught, she said.
“Some of that is the approaches of inquiry and project-based activities with students, that most students find a lot more exciting and a lot more fun than textbook-wrote learning,” Kulesa said. “Critical thinking skills, and problem solving skills and the ability to work with others as a team … those are very important hard skills that we need students to be able to learn and be able to acquire for them to be successful in their careers.
She added that STEM education is integral in creating a qualified workforce which supports a thriving economy.
“It’s not just another fun, cool project to do at school,” Kulesa said. “[STEM is] really an essential and new approach to innovative teaching and learning.”