Most students attended their routine public schools in Kane County this past month, but approximately 50 students from East Aurora and West Aurora school districts attended the newly established John C. Dunham STEM Partnership School.
STEM schools focus on science, technology, engineering and math —subjects in which U.S. student test scores sometimes fall short of global benchmarks.
According to the STEM school’s website, the program has shown improvements nationally, but is still not where it needs to be.
“Although there has been progress, students — particularly minorities and those from low-income families — are still not achieving at levels necessary to compete for 21st century jobs,” the website says.
The response to these issues began in 2009, when Aurora University and its community partnerships established the Mathematics and Science Education Center through an award from the Dunham Fund. Five years later, the center has evolved into a multi-district, partnership school located on the east side of campus. Fifty students from East Aurora, Indian Prairie and West Aurora school districts, grades 3-8, have attended this school for about a month. The STEM partnership school will observe Aurora West School District 129’s schedule.
Dr. Ed Howerton, assistant to the president for STEM, said the program abides by Common Core requirements, but when it comes to subjects like social studies, educators aim at a more holistic approach.
“If we’re studying an invention, we integrate the historical relevance, and the biography of the inventor and oppositions he or she may have faced,” Howerton said.
The primary application requirement to be considered for the STEM school is the desire to participate. Students did not need to display above average academic achievements to be accepted, and the eventually, the candidates were selected based on a lottery. Along with elementary and middle school students, the STEM school will be used to expand academic growth for teachers, explained Howerton.
“The STEM partnership school will prepare the community’s talented young learners in ways that will ignite their interest in mathematics and science,” he said. “Equally important is the opportunity to develop the school as a center for teacher preparation, faculty development and educational research.”
The John C. Dunham STEM Partnership School considers itself to be a living laboratory, equipped with the latest technology and built with hands-on education at the heart of its design. The school includes a greenhouse, a global technology center, multi-purpose room for seminars and group work, and multi-generational learning environments to accommodate elementary through undergraduate learning levels.
- This post was written by Ellen Kamps of the Kane County Regional Office of Education. For more information, visit the Kane County ROE website.