BASD positions technical education program for future
By Jennifer Eisenbart
When Burlington Area School District first started using Project Lead the Way certification years ago, it was cutting edge.
Now, as the district works to align its technology education for grades 7-12, the new acronym is STEM – Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.
Showing off the district’s STEM education program at a recent BASD Curriculum Committee meeting, Burlington High School technical education teacher Casey Miller – along with other tech ed teachers from the middle and high schools – showed what’s in store for the program.
What Miller stressed in his presentation was the desire to continue moving the program into the 2 1st century, toward not just the needs of the job market, but also making students college- and career-ready when they leave the school district.
Miller said teachers made a decision to align the program with the Roadmap for Instructional Excellence – and as a result, create a core curriculum that will match up what students learn at Karcher Middle School to allow them to move into various programs at the high school.
With Project Lead the Way – and the resulting class structure – Miller said the system sometimes worked, but many times didn’t.
“They were outstanding for 10 percent of the students,” said Miller of the classes, which were geared toward students who wanted to go into engineering. “But it wasn’t quite enough.”
Now, as Miller explains, the program is “cross-curricular,” meaning what students learn in STEM can also be applied in other academic areas – and vice versa.
Now, there are four career pathways – construction (drafting, etc.), transportation (auto, mechanics, etc.), manufacturing (metals and woods) and engineering.
“What we’ve been working on is, how do we make these pathways broader?” Miller said. Now, the two courses at Karcher – Technology 1 and 2 – are broader, semester-long classes, aligning with the core curriculum.
In Technology 1, students still put together CO2 cars, but now test drag and aerodynamics – but also design their own cars. In Technology 2, they essentially build a submarine.
In reconstructing the alignment, Miller said, instructors wanted it to be seamless, with students using three core parts of the Roadmap – analyzing, critical thinking and problem solving.
He also said the easiest way to get students to understand all of this is to put it in real-life situations.
“You can get students to buy in more if you show them where it’s relevant and how they’re going to use it,” Miller said.
The high school has also revised its available classes. For instance, Principles of Engineering still exists, but the course has been modified. Architecture and Green Methods is another revised class, as is 3D Solid Modeling and Design for Manufacturing.
BHS Principal Eric Burling pointed out that students taking these classes can pick up various certifications. In addition, those certifications help them out in applying to various post-secondary schools.
Right now, Gateway Technical College has a pre-engineering program. Students who reach a high enough grade point average in that program can apply to Milwaukee School of Engineering and get $8,000 off their tuition.
“(It’s) a lot of incentive for kids to get exposed to this engineering,” said Burling. “We’re trying to create that awareness for our students.”