Maryland's Eastern Shore's schools boost STEM courses to give students a better chance at good careers.
Schools in Maryland’s Eastern Shore have undertaken several initiatives to increase science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education. From pre-kindergarten to high school, students are getting exposure to STEM with the help of state and federal grants used to train teachers and develop curriculum.
“Our priority at Caroline County Schools is to bring STEM to all students,” says Melissa Mulligan, supervisor of instruction for the school system. Mulligan says major reports over the past few years have brought the need for comprehensive STEM education into clear focus for educators at all levels. One option for educators is a professional development course called The STEM Influenced Classroom at Washington College in Chestertown.
The 15-week online course shows teachers how to integrate STEM as components of a single discipline. Specialized jobs in STEM fields have increased by 32 percent over the past decade, while the number of 18 to 24 year olds in the U.S. who receive scientific degrees has fallen from third to 17th in the world in the last three decades. Mulligan says Caroline County Public Schools have refocused their curriculum planning toward improving the delivery of STEM education to students. Some elements of the programs are also designed to expose underrepresented minority and female students to STEM subjects that might interest them in pursuing a career in those fields, Mulligan adds. Field trips to museums and health-related facilities are used as one way to expose these students to opportunities available in STEM-related careers.
STEM Active Across the Region
Maryland’s Eastern Shore is home to nine STEM Innovation High Schools, including North Caroline High and Colonel Richardson High (Caroline County), Easton High and St. Michael’s High (Talbot County), Cambridge South Dorchester High and North Dorchester High (Dorchester County), Kent County High (Kent County), and Elkton High and Rising Sun High (Cecil County). Opening in September 2015, the Cecil County School of Technology will feature classrooms and laboratories, visual graphic studios, individual allied health suites, a culinary arts kitchen, and cosmetology labs.
Meanwhile, the University of Maryland Extension Talbot County 4-H takes STEM education out of the classroom and brings it to sites such as the Talbot County Fair. High school students active in Cecil County’s STEM Academy can apply for a scholarship at Cecil College, which pays up to two-thirds of the in-county tuition rate in effect for the semester. The college also opened a new state-of-the-art engineering and math building in 2014, and is partnering with several four-year institutions, such as Frostburg State University, to deliver bachelor’s degrees at their North East location. The University of Maryland Extension Talbot County 4-H is a leader in taking STEM education out of the classroom and bringing it to sites such as the Talbot County Fair, church camps and more. Meanwhile, high school students active in Cecil County’s STEM Academy can apply for a scholarship at Cecil College, which pays up to two-thirds of the in-county tuition rate in effect for the semester.
The Gateways to Technology programs prepare middle school students to join the Project Lead the Way programs at the high school level. At Lockerman Middle School in Denton, for example, students are learning about design and modeling, robotics used in manufacturing, energy and flight and space, among other units. Chad Shelly, a science teacher at Colonel Richardson High School, says his biomedical sciences students learn anatomy and physiology in a laboratory-type environment. They learn how to measure blood pressure as well as study diabetes, sickle cell, cholesterol and infectious diseases. “With health-related career opportunities increasing, we wanted to offer some classes that might help our students develop a career path in those STEM areas,” says Shelly, who explains that his classes involved primarily laboratory-type study rather than lectures, which often only focus on memorization of content. “Working in a laboratory environment piques their interest in medical endeavors,” he says. Early in 2014, Colonel Richardson High School received national certification for its Project Lead the Way Biomedical Sciences program. This certification means students enrolled in the biomedical program at the school may be eligible for preferential college admissions, college credit, scholarships and other opportunities.
Business, College Partnerships
Caroline County Public Schools has also partnered with businesses in the county to develop and retain local engineering and skilled technical school talent. The Advanced Manufacturing Professionals (AMP) program is designed to educate students about career opportunities available in manufacturing, which is Caroline County’s largest employment sector. It also allows businesses to build relationships with students who have strong potential for future employment. Beginning in their junior year of high school, top students who plan to pursue engineering careers or skilled technical careers are selected to participate in the AMP program. First, students attend a symposium that educates them on the current state of U.S. manufacturing, emerging trends and an overview of career opportunities within the sector. They then visit local manufacturing facilities for extensive plant tours and meetings with engineering and technical personnel. Students may then apply for internships with manufacturing companies throughout the county. Juniors and seniors may spend half their school day working in internship positions, and they are also available to work after school and over the summer. The goal is to help these students maintain connections with local companies throughout their post-secondary education and ultimately find full-time employment within the county. The first group of AMP students visited manufacturers in January of 2014.