Blount schools approve Heritage High’s STEM program
By Matthew Stewart | (email@example.com)
The Blount County Board of Education has approved the county’s first STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) academy: Heritage High School’s STEM Studio.
During Thursday’s meeting, school board members approved Heritage High’s STEM Studio and created graduation distinctions for its students. The school district will provide distinctions to students who:
• Complete an approved six-credit career technical education cluster with a STEM focus;
• Complete a second program of studies in math and science;
• Maintain a 3.0 unweighted GPA in all core and program classes;
• Achieve a C or better in all classes;
• Complete the science research course;
• Complete 30 hours of approved community service;
• Present a STEM portfolio to the STEM Advisory Board during their senior year;
• Complete an approved capstone experience.
Prior to the vote, Heritage High School’s STEM Team presented results from more than two years of research and planning. The team is composed of 15 teachers and administrators, 11 students and two parents.
STEM education is driven by problem-solving, discovery and exploratory learning. By adopting the STEM philosophy, the four subjects are taught dependently. The science, engineering and mathematics fields are heightened by the technology component, which provides a creative, innovative way to solve problems and apply their knowledge.
Heritage High School’s students have led the charge for STEM education, said math teacher Mark Andrews.
“Our recommendations are based on the needs of our students. They had demands for us, and they’ve demanded our best.”
While developing Heritage High’s STEM Studio, the initiative’s teachers received guidance and training from numerous organizations, such as Health Occupations Students of America, Millard Oakley STEM Center, Technology Engineering Education Association of Tennessee, Tennessee Science Teachers Association and Tennessee STEM Education Caucus.
School officials have also made connections in the higher education community. They have worked with Pellissippi State Community College, Tennessee Technological University, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and University of Tennessee at Knoxville.
Two initial stem paths
When Heritage High School’s STEM Studio opens this fall, students can choose from two paths: Engineering and health science. School officials hope to implement a third path, agriculture and animal systems, in the near future.
Earlier this year, school officials started implementing program components into their curriculum.
Health science teachers Julie Bell and Brooke Everett are collaborating with Kendall Terry’s AP Biology class. Bell and Everett have helped teach blood pressure and heart rate in a lab.
During Thursday’s meeting, the STEM Team demonstrated the equipment on Director of Schools Rob Britt. They tested whether his blood pressure would increase while reading a budget proposal.
Sam Warwick, who teaches drafting and engineering, later talked about the program’s engineering path.
“In my class, I try to take present skills and apply them to real-world problems,” he said. “We use everyday materials in new, unique ways. All of my projects start with a written problem and a limited amount of materials.”
Heritage High School senior Isaac Goodson later highlighted two projects from Warwick’s class. He showed a structure made of 12 index cards and glue, which Warwick stepped on and placed all of his weight to demonstrate its structural integrity.
Every student’s structure held at least 60 pounds, Warwick said.
Goodson also played Sam Cooke’s “Wonderful World” on a speaker created from a presentation board, foam bowl, foam plate, cut-up mouse pad, magnet, paper, wire and the top of a discarded plastic bottle. Every student in Warwick’s class created a working speaker from similar materials.
Assistant Principal Colleen Mattison later addressed board members.
School officials are evaluating future actions that will ensure the program’s success, she said. They are looking at several items which include: Creating a collaborative planning time for STEM Studio teachers; acquiring funding for designated STEM space and lab renovations, which could result in a STEMatarium; organizing additional professional development opportunities; and improving the school’s wireless Internet infrastructure and technology offerings.