New STEM Curriculum Sets Students Ready for 21st Century

Student Groups Awarded with Certificates of Excellence. Jon Keaney pictured on left and Adam Smith pictured on the right presented the certificate.  Credits: Marianne Ivers
Student Groups Awarded with Certificates of Excellence.  Credits: Marianne Ivers
Student Groups Awarded with Certificates of Excellence.  Credits: Marianne Ivers
 Student groups awarded with certificates of excellence.  Credits: Marianne Ivers
Student Groups Awarded with Certificates of Excellence.  Credits: Marianne Ivers
High school students show their project. Credits: Marianne Ivers

NEW PROVIDENCE, NJ – Sandra Searing, Director of Curriculum, Instruction and Supervision, as well as the district’s Science and Technology Department Heads provided information regarding new programs at the Monday, Feb. 29 Board of Education (BOE) meeting.

Some of the programs to be introduced next year were initiated by public feedback during last year’s strategic planning meetings. The added STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) programs as well as the Next Generation Science Standards highlight critical thinking, problem solving and writing skills. Searing commended the administration and the many teachers who took part in developing the new programs.

Jon Keaney, Department Head of STEM, explained the new STEM education principals. The goal is to integrate the STEM curricula with other subject areas, such as writing and reading.

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In grades K-4 the focus is to introduce the STEM field to students. Students continue to be exposed to the STEM field but with more rigorous course material in grades 5-8. At the high school level STEM education provides a track for college courses and STEM careers. The district will continue “shifting and tweaking” current programs in order to provide a coherent program, Keaney said.

Next year the high school students have an option to take “Introduction to Engineering Design” (gr. 9-10) and more advanced “Principals of Engineering” (gr. 10-12). Other new courses will be “Technology and Design Process” (gr. 9-10), “Honors Biomedical Engineering” (gr. 11-12) and “AP Computer Science Principles” (10-12).

In the middle school seventh graders can take coding as well as a science and engineering class. Graphic Design Process as well as a science and engineering class will be available to eighth grade students. Elementary school students will also see their STEM program expand.

Three groups of students representing elementary, middle and high school levels attended the meeting and demonstrated their STEM projects. Keaney also noted that there will be additional extracurricular opportunities in the STEM field for all grades. The district has benefitted from the community partnerships with local companies, many of which have contributed funds and expertise to the club programs.

James McGeechan, Science Department Head, provided an overview of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) which applies a multi-discipline approach to learning. The program integrates science education with math, reading and writing.

The NGSS are based on three dimensional model of learning. The first dimension is the scientific and engineering “practices” that teach students how scientific and engineering work is done. The second dimension is “crosscutting concepts” that are applied in various domains of science. It looks into causes and effects as well as into structures and functions. The third dimension “core ideas” provide relationships across multiple sciences and engineering disciplines. It provides tools to understand and research problems.

The district is continuing with “extensive district-wide science professional development devoted to NGSS,” McGeechan said. The district will also apply the ICT (Information and Communication Technology) guide in the education process of overlapping disciplines. The ICT Guide provides the students with skills for success and establishes clear expectations for students across content area.

Superintendent David Miceli expressed his thanks to the parents for their “patience”. The district did not want to provide just some random classes, but instead took some time to create a comprehensive and meaningful STEM program, he said.

The board also awarded five different student groups with Certificates of Excellence. All these groups excelled in STEM related research and competition projects.

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