Deer Park High School students will have the opportunity to better prepare themselves for college and career through a two new STEM programs being introduced in the 2014-15 school year. STEM is an acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math education. Schools around the nation are accentuating the importance of these disciplines not only because the skills and knowledge in each discipline are essential for student success, but also because these fields are deeply intertwined in the real world and in how students learn most effectively. STEM programs place emphasis on an interdisciplinary and applied approach to instruction that is coupled with hands-on, problem-based learning, builds connections between the fields of math and science, meaningfully integrates technology, and introduces and engages students in the engineering design process.

Deer Park’s vision for STEM-focused innovation has seen two new elective courses introduced at Deer Park Middle School:  Robotics and Automation and Design and Modeling (for additional information about these courses, CLICK HERE). After a successful introduction of these Project Lead The Way (PLTW) programs at DPMS, new courses in biomedical sciences (CLICK HERE for information) and engineering will be offered to students at DPHS. Staff involved in teaching these new courses are attending trainings this summer in preparation for these new programs. Kevin Kernan, Deer Park’s new industrial arts instructor will be installing a new Laguna CNC Smartshop II router to work along with Solidworks software as students both design and create in his programs at DPHS.

In addition to typical measures of achievement, STEM indicators of success include student excitement about coming to school, enthusiasm for learning, and a passionate interest in investigating the world around them. Students in these programs often report increased academic confidence and learn to persevere when faced with challenges. They can gather and analyze relevant information and synthesize knowledge and skills to solve real problems in thoughtful and ethical ways. Deer Park High School Principal Joe Feist said, “We’ve had a number of high end science and math courses at Deer Park High School for years, offerings like physics and calculus, but we’ve never really implemented those programs in ways that fit into actual career fields. I’m exited about the ways that these new programs will emphasize very applicable skills in the context of our high school coursework.”

Dr. Sylvia Oliver, PLTW Biomedical Science Affiliate Director at WSU’s Riverpoint Campus, said, “The PLTW Biomedical Program is actually a series of consecutive course for all high school grades where the concepts covered intertwine with one another throughout each of the courses. It’s an exciting curriculum that challenges students to put their learning to use in real-world scenarios.” Kevin Kernan, Deer Park’s new Industrial Arts instructor is fashioning his engineering programs in the same way, seeking to build programs that prepare students to develop skills that will help them find success in the workplace. In fact, both programs are designed to help prepare students for postsecondary education, make them more marketable in the career world, and encourage students to solve complex problems on their own.

Having these Project Lead the Way programs along with similar offerings in our schools helps create students who are prepared to take on academic challenges at the next level, it creates a valuable workforce helping students stay in the area by not having to move away to seek a good job, and, in the long term, may even help bring more industry and businesses into the area. Superintendent Travis Hanson said, “We want our students to be as prepared as possible for the future and that’s a central element of our mission. It the right time to invest in these programs and I’m excited about the future of these programs in Deer Park.”