Amesbury High School is a small suburban district located in the northeastern portion of Massachusetts. Amesbury High School offers a traditional science curriculum (biology, chemistry, and physics) blended with many elective courses. Recently added electives include microbiology, forensics, geology, environmental science, and meteorology to name a few. All of these courses offer students a chance to explore in-depth issues connected to each of these fields with a curriculum designed to address real-life connections, strengthen their problem solving skills, and provide opportunities for application of their knowledge. Based upon review of the Next Generation Science Standards, it became evident a need to offer students a STEM course that was strongly focused on problem-based learning, which bridged math and science content, and offered students a better understanding of the engineering field.
In the spring of 2012, a curriculum was written based upon experiences in Northeastern University’s Research Experience for Teachers Program and the CAPSULE Program which are both funded by NSF. Both of these programs offer rich professional development, is focused on engineering-based learning (EBL), have strong connections to University faculty, and provide teachers the opportunity to develop lessons and units that they can directly apply in their classrooms. The CAPSULE program provided extensive training in developing units based upon the engineering design process (EDP), offered intensive training in SolidWorks® (mechanical design software), and provided each of its participants with continued support through classrooms visits and online discussion forums.
Based upon participation in these programs, available support through University connections, and a deeper understanding of the field of engineering and the EDP, we anticipate the curriculum developed for our students will lead to a deeper understanding of STEM topics and lead to an increase in enrollment in our science and math classes. I also feel that the potential exists to have CAPSTONE projects become a requirement in the newly developed course.
This paper covers the details of the initial offering of the newly-developed course, the changes made for the upcoming school year, and the challenges faced throughout the process of implementation. It also addresses the grant writing successes and failures encountered and how the funding has been used to enhance components of the course. Included in the paper are student reactions and feedback that was considered in revising the course. Lastly, the paper summarizes my involvement in both of these professional development programs and how they are integral to developing leadership skills and confidence within the education profession.