Kindergarten - 5th Grade STEM Program
K-5 STEM PROGRAM OVERVIEW
The District 220 plan is to build an innovative STEM curriculum within the elementary school day so all students - kindergarten through fifth-grade - have opportunities to apply what they are learning in science, technology, engineering and mathematics in an integrated, hands-on, design-based environment. We want to create an aligned STEM program from kindergarten through grade 12, exposing all students in our elementary and middle schools to these important fields, and then providing further specialized classes for students who are interested in extending their knowledge.
STEM is an acronym for “Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics” introduced by the National Science Foundation (NSF). Over the years, STEM Education efforts by K–12 teachers have been aimed at ensuring that the United States remains competitive in the global market (Leonard Gelfand Center for Service Learning and Outreach at Carnegie Mellon University, 2008).
Barrington 220 elementary schools host various STEM-related activities, both during the school-day, such as the Global Cardboard Challenge, and in extracurricular activities, such as robotics and coding clubs. Outside of the engineering strand in our science program, we do not have a district-wide STEM program accessed and aligned across buildings.
Research and Rationale:
“What students learn about the science disciplines, technology, engineering, and mathematics during their K-12 schooling shapes their intellectual development, opportunities for future study and work, and choices of career, as well as their capacity to make informed decisions about political and civic issues about their own lives. A wide array of public and personal issues – from global warming to medical treatment to social networking to home mortgages – involve science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Indeed, the solutions to some of the most daunting problems facing the nation will require not only the expertise of top STEM professionals but also the wisdom and understanding of its citizens.”
- Successful STEM Education: A Workshop Summary, National Research Council 2011
Research from the National Research Council demonstrates positive effects upon learning and achievement of students in STEM programs (STEM Integration in K-12 Education, 2014). STEM programs emphasize collaboration, communication, research, problem solving, critical thinking, and creativity in solving real-world problems. It is a response to the realization that our children’s future will be based on the capacity for innovation, invention, and creative problem solving. These skills and strategies carry over into numerous subject areas and beyond academia.
Research also suggests that access to STEM programs at an elementary level raises interest, excitement, and motivation to continue learning about the scientific world and engineering practices. Studies clearly indicate that early and repeated exposure to STEM subjects is essential for cultivating both future interest and future aptitude in STEM subjects (Hanover Research Study: K-12 STEM Education Overview, 2011). In the most recent research studies, effects on students’ thinking about themselves as science learners and developing identities as those who know about, use, and sometimes contribute to science are strong, noted especially with lower income students. Thus, STEM education should begin in elementary school.
“I want us to think about new and creative ways to engage young people in science and engineering, whether it’s science festivals, robotics competitions, fairs that encourage young people to create and build and invent – to be makers of things, not just consumers of things.” – President Barack Obama at the National Academies of Science, April 27, 2009.
K-5 STEM PROGRAM DETAIL
This five-year proposal starts with a STEM program pilot in fourth and fifth grade within three elementary buildings. Each fourth and fifth grade class in the three pilot schools will pilot one of the two programs, either LEGO or Project Lead the Way. A teacher will instruct students between four and eight weeks during their designated science curriculum time. Over the course of the first year, we will determine which program has an overall benefit to our students, looking at four factors: learning, achievement, interest, and identity. The impact during our first year will affect over 500 students. In the subsequent four years, the hope is to grow the STEM initiative to all grades at all of our elementary schools, including our early learning center, so that over 3500 elementary students will experience a cohesive STEM-based curriculum.