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More and more, business leaders, employers, educators, entrepreneurs, and others are focusing their attention on individuals who received an education with an emphasis on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). This education/training is imperative to meet the demands of business as the economy around us becomes increasingly more complex and technology-driven.
Young children are natural scientists, exploring their surroundings in the way they know best – actively: touching, tasting, creating, and building to understand the world in which they live. While Old Trail School is not a formally designated STEM school, our approach to science, technology, engineering and mathematics is grounded in research-based practice, design-thinking, integrated teaching, and personalized learning opportunities that support cognitive development, academic achievement, and personal growth. Our students and teachers view STEM as being seamlessly woven into all aspects of the Old Trail School day.
Students are engaged in experimental science in three fully-equipped laboratories and begin working concretely and abstractly with mathematics as early as preschool. Old Trail School offers opportunities for children to study technology and engineering across all grades through coding, robotics, 3-D printing, art and design. Year-long studies of Colonial America, the world’s oceans, and environmental education provides an outward view locally and globally.
The youngest children are engaged in innovative learning through play. Children build knowledge and understanding in science, mathematics, and all areas of formal curriculum through thoughtfully planned and creatively engaged experiences with the child’s natural world. Children explore cooking for measurement, planting for data gathering, building with mathematics, and problem solving in economics and entrepreneurship by creating items to market and sell. In the design of inventions, young learners encounter trial and error, engineering, measurement and problem solving.
This learning would be nearly impossible without teachers that are skilled in preparing open-ended tasks that allow for exploration, deep learning, and multiple, measurable outcomes.
Old Trail School’s teachers are trained in Problem-Based Learning (PBL) and are supported in developing innovative learning experiences through sustained and high-quality professional development in their primary field(s) of teaching as well as global studies, international travel, and technology.
Teachers creatively nurture children’s curiosity and passions through learning opportunities that prepare children to solve problems – those we have currently and those we cannot even imagine yet. Offering creative, innovative, important, and rigorous learning opportunities across all aspects of our curriculum guides children to a lifelong love of learning.
Ultimately, the measure of success and effectiveness in all areas of curriculum at Old Trail School – including science, technology, engineering and mathematics – lies in the enthusiasm for learning demonstrated by students and is measured in growth of understanding and knowledge. Students are invited to show their learning in multiple and dynamic ways (formatively and summatively) that include, but are not limited to, projects, creative art experiences, music and theatrical production, and more traditional assessments like research papers, tests, and written and oral expression. We believe that all children are capable of learning and that learning is best measured by assessment that is student-centered.
By Jennifer L. Milam, Ph.D., Old Trail School Director of Curriculum and Instructional Innovation