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Purdue College of Education Embarks upon a Partnership with Maconaquah and Kokomo School Corporations to Implement Integrated STEM

Purdue College of Education Embarks upon a Partnership with Maconaquah and Kokomo School Corporations to Implement Integrated STEM

Integrated STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) schools represent a new way of teaching and learning that focuses on the integration of these subjects into problem and project-based learning instruction.  The transition from traditional learning to an integrated STEM focus requires a transformation of the way teachers teach and the way students learn.  Ideally, in a STEM school, teachers will never hear that oft-asked question, “How am I ever going to use this?” That is because students in an integrated STEM learning environment put what they learn to use through addressing real-world challenges and problems tied to STEM themes.

In the age of the Internet, when most human knowledge is available at the fingertips, the focus in the classroom has moved from acquisition of content to accessing content and applying it through the use of 21st Century Skills such as problem solving, critical thinking, and collaboration with others. Gaining these habits of mind through an integrated STEM learning environment is an essential part of what it takes to prepare students for college and STEM careers.

Nationally recognized scholar in STEM reform, Carla Johnson, EdD, Professor of Science Education at Purdue University College of Education and Associate Director of the college’s Center for Advancing the Teaching and Learning of STEM (CATALYST) is the lead researcher on a $450K grant from the State of Indiana Department of Education Mathematics and Science Partnership Program.  This grant, named the Partnership for Advancing Integrated STEM Education (P-STEM), will provide funding which supports professional development for 40 volunteer teachers in curriculum design, teaching strategies, and the acquisition of STEM content for the Maconaquah and Maple Crest (Kokomo) Middle Schools.  The grant enables the transition to an integrated STEM focus for both schools. 

“This is a remarkable opportunity to partner with Maconaquah and Kokomo and provide support for their journey to implement STEM,” says Johnson, “These schools and their teachers will be pioneers who help make the leap to integrated STEM instruction as a driving component of their curriculum. While we have already helped schools in other states move toward integrated STEM education, this grant will help us develop two schools in Indiana that will serve as a model for the state and beyond,” she continued.

The 40 teachers will be provided with professional development to help them refine their practice to include inquiry-based instruction, engineering and technological design, and mathematical analysis as key components in the delivery of integrated STEM instruction.  The P-STEM program will not only include professional development support, but will also have a graduate course in STEM curriculum design through Purdue, and a job-shadowing/internship experience in a STEM occupation to help teachers develop firsthand experience in a STEM career. 

Teachers and leaders in the respective schools are also excited to move this transformation forward.  According to Dr. Doug Arnold, Superintendent, Maconaquah School Corporation, “One of Maconaquah’s five strategic planning goals is to become a leader in north central Indiana in the use of technology for students and teachers.  We began working on this goal by implementing 1-to-1 technology for students in grades K-12 during the 2012-2013 school year.”  (One-to-one technology means that each student has computer access or a tablet device to interact in real time with educational content.)

Kokomo School Corporation Assistant Superintendent Pennye Siefert said, “Kokomo Schools is excited to partner with Maconaquah School Corporation in collaboration with Purdue University on this 3-year grant. It will help us design, implement, and evaluate professional learning programs that affect deep, lasting student growth in mathematics and science education.”

Although many schools around the US have implemented various approaches to STEM, P-STEM will be the first multi-district effort in Indiana focused on the integrated STEM approach.  Educational researchers at Purdue College of Education will be following the progress carefully, to publish findings, and to help chart the path to implementing integrated STEM education for schools around the world.