Science and Technology Rule in STEM
At Collierville High School’s STEM program, teens own the learning process (and they like it)
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Developing talent at Collierville
Though the STEM program is newly launched at Collierville High, having Brasher at the helm is a logical progression for this math educator, who has long been interested in teaching science. For two years, she worked at the county office, heading up OPTIONS, a STEM program funded through the National Science Foundation aimed at introducing teen girls to science and technology. While there, Brasher got to see other STEM classrooms around the country. She was impressed with what her peers were doing and has brought some of those best practices into her own classroom.
Here, homework and tests are swapped for team projects that must be completed in class (eliminating parent participation). Brasher’s role is as a facilitator and guide to students, helping them find the answers to fulfill project requirements. They must also keep in mind course objectives, which are clearly stated on a bulletin board up front. Another departure: Projects can be completed more than once. “Failure is not an option,” says Brasher, “Each project must work, so they continue until it does.”
Take, for example, the Pringles Challenge. This engineering task requires students to build a container from index cards that will hold one potato chip intact through the U.S. mail as it’s delivered back to the classroom. Brasher shows me several crinkled envelopes that clearly telegraph failure, but one we open contains a whole chip. The student had unlocked the secret.
This project, as well as many others the teens work on throughout the year, is a way for students to see physics, engineering, and math principles at work. Recognizing direct applications for such concepts makes learning much more relevant. The aim, ultimately, is to get kids thinking about STEM fields as a possible career path.
“There’s so much hands-on learning here. It’s just a different class than anything offered in our school,” notes Collierville High Principal Russell Dyer. “I’d personally love to see us grow it and get more advanced so the corporations at our doorstep could come in as partners.”
Currently, Brasher is working with several other STEM teachers to develop a curriculum that would enable public schools across the state to grow STEM programs. But for her students, the future is now.
Optional School Open Houses
• East High Open House • January 16, at 6 p.m.
• STEAM program (which adds an art component) starts next year at Fairfield Middle School in Midtown. Open house • January 13, at 6 p.m. Christian Brothers University Buckman Hall - Spain Auditorium
For a listing of all Optional School Open Houses, visit our website • memphisparent.com/Memphis-Parent/Living-in-the-Moment/December-2013/Opotional-Schools-Open-House-Schedule/