K12 district expands STEM-focused program
Lennox School District was recognized as a DA District of Distinction in July 2017 for its Lennox Schools of Engineering program, a wide-ranging STEM initiative.
Since launching its School of Engineering (SOE), Lennox School District now has five full-time engineers who work with fourth- through eighth-grade students. Engineering is now part of the curriculum at the elementary schools and is an elective at the middle school.
The district has also added a robotics elective and a machine shop, and is expanding its programming lab. During elementary school STEAM nights, students and their parents perform experiments, learn to code, fly drones and control Sphero robots.
Since the SOE’s start in 2016, lessons and units have become more uniform. Engineers share lesson ideas and formats to ensure that all students have successful inquiry and learning experiences.
Along with International Society for Technology in Education standards, the district uses the 5E lesson model (Engage, Explore, Explain, Elaborate, and Evaluate) to create lessons.
The SOE program is open to all students, including those with special needs, those who are learning English, and those with poor grades. A lottery determines participation since there are more students interested than spots available.
The district’s two SOE elementary schools have posted large gains in both reading and math. At the middle school, SOE students scored 10 percent higher in language arts and 14 points higher in math than other students. Overall, the the level of rigor in most of classes has increased.
2017 District of Distinction recognition
When the Lennox Elementary School District learned that few Hispanic and female students were applying to university engineering programs, school leaders acted—creating the Schools of Engineering to provide students in grades 4 through 8 with STEM instruction.
To ensure the highest level of scientific rigor, Lennox hired four trained engineers to teach. They collaborate with classroom teachers to institute a project-based learning model focused on the engineering design process, which teaches seven steps of problem-solving and requires students to build prototypes.
Each of the three sites has an engineer who runs a STEM lab outfitted with 3D printers, robots, drones, electrical circuits, laser cutters, power tools and other high-tech equipment. The program’s multisubject teachers also blend language arts and social studies. District partners such as Bosch, Boeing, MESA (Mathematics, Engineering, and Science Achievement), Northrop Grumman and EnCorps provide resources and scientific expertise.
To start your own STEM-related program:
• Include stakeholders in decisions.
• Develop community partnerships. Lennox reached out to several major corporations.