North Idaho STEM Charter Academy Curriculum Overview
By Darrell Richardson Board Vice-Chairman
All Idaho public schools are required to teach the core materials and this school will meet those requirements. In addition, the school adds a Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) curriculum to provide enhanced development in these areas. What follows is specific to 6th through 8th grade. As an engineer, I was asked to see how well it meets the expectations of preparing students for advanced education and professions in technical areas. Having viewed other STEM options, I was very happy and excited about this one. The curriculum uses projects to teach the topics and engage students. Please note the highlighted sections below. My expectations were more than met.
The students will:
- There are many situations where students have to further define design criterion, prototype the design, test it, refine it, and go back through this again. In the process they will be taught techniques for developing ideas, design processes, troubleshooting processes, mathematical modeling and more. To make it fun and engaging, students will use projects such as building and testing hot air balloons, magnetic levitation vehicles, passive solar heating and much more.
- Develop a broad exposure to technology. Students will participate in robotics development; learn about steering, gearing, drive trains, sensors, programming, electro-magnetics, and more. They will also learn about issues that will be of significance to their future, such as Environmental Engineering, Renewable Energy Engineering, Water Quality and Conservation, Waste Reduction, and more. These will be through hands-on projects to make them real, easily retained, and engaging.
- Learn to do scientific research. Student’s projects help them to understand material science, such as crystals and the logic behind the periodic chart structure. They will learn about the relationship between an ideal gas and volume. In one particular project, students will study underwater habitats using an underwater robotic the students build and use to research those habitats. Students will troll for samples of the food chain, measure depths, view the environment with a camera, and measure the water turbidity. The data will be entered into an international database viewable as a map online.
- Get comfortable using math as a tool. Math is integrated throughout the projects. The principles being taught include using math to model them, such as using calculations of thrust, drag, area, and mass to predict flight performance. Advanced math is presented and used, such as trigonometry in the rocketry section, and logarithms in the underwater light measurement section.
- All have fun doing the projects (Girls and Boys). There is a multitude of fun and engaging projects within the curriculum. The above gives you an idea of some of them. The best summary I can give is to say "I wish my kids were still young enough to do this!"