Mukilteo schools integrating STEM into lessons | Mukilteo Schools

By Marci Larsen, Superintendent | Dec 04, 2013

A few days before Thanksgiving, three of our teachers told the school board about a work experience they had during the summer.

The three teach subjects that are within the sphere of fields that have become known as STEM (science, technology, engineering and math).

As I pointed out in one of these columns last spring, STEM has become a major emphasis in schools because, with today’s increasingly complex world, demand for jobs in STEM-related areas has grown significantly in the past 20 years and will continue to grow in the future.

One of our goals at the Mukilteo School District is to improve our education in STEM areas and expose students to the career possibilities that exist in STEM fields.

The three teachers told the school board about their eight-day externships in local organizations.

Jennifer Mease of Kamiak High School spent her time at the King County Waste Treatment plant and learned about all the chemical testing that is done in their labs.

Erica Ojeda of Explorer Middle School spent her time at Electroimpact in Mukilteo to experience the hands-on work that is done by that company’s engineers.

The third teacher, Beth Bergevin of Mariner High School, went to Boeing and learned the importance of soft skills and problem solving.

All three said the experience changed the way they teach.

For example, to explain to high school students the concept of what one one-hundredth of an inch looks like, one of the teachers now uses a feeler gauge so students can feel the difference.

Students are also getting interested in STEM through robotics, which has become a popular class and extracurricular activity at several schools.

Voyager Middle School has particularly embraced its robotics effort and has more than half of its students enrolled in robotics classes.

Students with interests in many areas – engineering, marketing, software, math, physics and others – work together to create machines that will solve problems or serve some kind of function.

Core classes integrate STEM into lessons and the school has also engaged the arts in this effort, thus adding an “A” to STEM and instead calling it STEAM.

The next time you’re in the neighborhood of our District Office, stop by and take a look at the chairs that are in our reception area. They are incredible works of art produced by the middle school students at Voyager.

Across the sports field from Voyager is Discovery Elementary, which has also embraced STEM through robotics.

That effort has been so successful that a fifth grader from the school, Jenna Tompkins, and her teacher, Shane Kiehn, were invited to speak a few weeks ago at a black-tie dinner for the Seattle Branch of the Royal Aeronautical Society.

Yet another exciting opportunity to expose students to STEM will begin soon after classes resume following the holidays.

Using money received from the Mukilteo Schools Foundation and the Greater Everett Foundation, we will begin offering sixth grade students the chance to learn about the forces of flight by taking a tour of the Boeing plant and also getting hands-on lessons at the Future of Flight.

We are working to expand the program to include classroom extension experiences at all grade levels, from lessons for kindergarteners about the five senses using classroom work and field trips to the Imagine Children’s Museum in Everett, to lessons for high schoolers that will connect what they have learned in history, science, and math classes to experiences they will have at places such as Boeing, the Historic Flight Foundation, the Flying Heritage Collection and the Future of Flight.

Working together with local partners, we want to expose students to STEM in ways they can see and that will perhaps stimulate them to explore more deeply.

We are very excited about the direction this effort has taken.

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