School Districts in Dixon and Davis are in the process of collaborating with UC Davis to develop and implement a new, integrated teaching system called STEM.
The two districts are on the receiving end of a $1.6 million grant funded by SD Bechtel Foundation, that allows K-12 teachers and administrators to collaborate curriculum in Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics (STEM) into classroom education.
At a meeting of the Business Education Committee Tuesday, guests speakers Doctor Harold Levine, Dean of UCD, and Arthur Beauchamp, Director UCD I-STAR program, explained the program and how they are leading teachers from Dixon and Davis to research and draft the framework for classroom use, with goals of seeing this program become a state education standard.
"The STEM program encourages higher order cognitive skills; teaching kids to learn how to learn, explains Levine, "forming questions, asking the right questions to collect data needed to form the correct answers, understanding how to phrase questions, and learning to support their arguments are all part of it. This work is 20 steps ahead of the new state standards"
A team of 34 teachers are working with UCD, librarians and administrators to incorporate national science standards with math common core standards to teach good questioning, perseverance in problem solving, and really define a standard for the term ‘critical thinking’.
Beauchamp reports the teams are excited with progress and observations stating, “I wish I could bottle the energy in that room and hand it out.”
The program will build on itself, bringing elementary, middle and high school teachers together to allow for smoother transitions between grade level curricula.
The Business Education Committee is a charter of the Dixon Chamber of Commerce. Business members in the community have chaired this group to build a link between the business, education, and parent communities in Dixon. The committee strongly advocates for the STEM program and other education programs in Dixon.
“We believe in this program,” says Ron Mulligan, committee chair and manager at Basalite Concrete Products of Dixon, “100-years down the road, as those that follow us look through our minutes, they will be able to see where this program started.”
"This program is important to the prosperity and competitiveness of our country,” Mulligan continues, “we want to get the word out that the business community values education in our town.”
According to the 2006 PISA ranks, American students trail behind international peers in achievement, ranking U.S. 15-year-olds, 24th in math, and 19th in science, among the 29 OECD nations. Although the long term collaborative changes of this program may not be seen for upwards of 13 years, there are goals of increased standardized testing scores and improved engagement of kids within the three-year trial period and long term goals of more opportunities and better life outcomes.
Dixon school board member, Herb Cross has been working with Levine for three years to bring this program to Dixon, with the grant finally being awarded in April of this year. As the liaison between the committee, school board and UCD, Cross expressed the importance of community support for the program, and the intention of the committee to bring STEM plans before the City Council to educate City Officials and service groups on the advances.
Levine closed explaining the goal is to change the STEM trajectory district wide, building a community that supports STEM and understands that it represents future prosperity, a well- qualified work force, job creation and it will take long term commitment. “We want to demonstrate to the world the power of a partnership between a University and elementary education.”