The Center was launched in March 2011 and represents a new approach to early grade and pre-college science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) teaching and learning at the Polytechnic School of Engineering. The Center builds on several very strong programs already at the School of Engineering that improve student outcomes; these programs provide high-quality professional development in STEM disciplines to K-12 science and mathematics teachers. The School of Engineering’s programs further mentor teachers and K-12 students in STEM disciplines through SOE’s human resources of faculty, administrators and students, its physical resources of laboratories and classrooms and Institute initiatives that expose young people to the creative, exciting and academically challenging world of science.
Students that participate in SOE’s K-12 programs gain analytical skills and knowledge by engaging in scientific inquiry, an excitement about the personal possibilities educational attainment provides and a deep appreciation for the inherent creativity embedded in all kinds of scientific and academic pursuits. Achieving these goals puts students on the path to school completion, higher education and economic and social advancement.
While focused on those groups of students traditionally underrepresented in STEM disciplines and careers and those who teach those students, the Center has a broad reach throughout K-12 schools and systems. The Center’s overall objective - to transfer STEM knowledge and the excitement inherent in the pursuit of scientific discovery and innovation from the School of Engineering’s faculty and students to K-12 teachers and learners - is met in a variety of settings and through a diversity of means designed to instill inspiration and motivation.
Drawing heavily on the i2e principle guiding the Institute’s growth and development, the Center for K-12 STEM Education creates, pilots, evaluates and scale models programs that advance student learning. It seeks not only to incorporate invention, innovation and entrepreneurship in its K-12 STEM education models, but also incorporates these values in the Center itself. The Center is designed to be entrepreneurial in creating and seizing opportunities, engaging interested people in its work, and is organized to be flexible, responsive, transparent and accountable for results. It is strategic in its decision-making, has the confidence to make mistakes and test ideas and is nimble enough to change models as evidence and data dictate.
There are many existing models and involved faculty and students at SOE, as well as elsewhere throughout the nation, upon which the Center for K-12 STEM Education is grounded. The Youth in Engineering and Science (YES) Center as well as the work of the former David Packard Center will combine with the Center’s model programs which will reside at the nexus of hands-on-science, evidence-based practice in teaching and learning, and research that enhance the field of K-12 STEM education. Working with faculty, the Center develops and reengineers initiatives to enhance the K-12 experience such as summer research opportunities, sophisticated professional development models for K-12 teachers, in-depth engagement with science and scientists for students in classroom and after-school settings, the use of technology in STEM education and others yet to be conceived.