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Campus Connection for Dec. 2, 2011

Article Date: 
2 December, 2011 (All day)

The “Educate to Innovate” campaign for Excellence in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Education is a new initiative being funded by the federal government, private companies, foundations, and non-profit organizations. The purpose is to lift American students to the top internationally in science and math achievement over the next decade by motivating and inspiring students to excel in STEM subjects. Many states and universities have received or are about to receive large grants. Morgan Middle School CTE/Technology teacher Brian Rutherford has received multiple grants for this purpose.  He has been awarded $1500.00 from the Utah Credit Union Education Foundation, $1000.00 from the Utah Education Association, $500.00 from the Carl Perkins grant that was awarded to the District Career and Technical Education Department, and several hundred dollars’ worth of product from vendors as well as a 20% discount on all future orders from TeacherGeek.

The State of Utah is one of the 46 states beginning the process of implementing a national common core for school subjects. The purpose of this project is to implement a model for introducing engineering concepts into the core curriculum in the Science, Mathematics, and Engineering and Technology Education classes at the 7th and 8th grade levels. 

The teachers at Morgan Middle School have been talking about ways to integrate curriculum for the last three years. They now have developed a plan to integrate the new common core with engineering principles taught in the Technology and Engineering Education classes.  In this project, students will apply the science, technical, engineering, and mathematics core concepts learned in class to solve engineering related problems using TeacherGeek components. TeacherGeek is an independent company that supplies teachers with engineering project ideas and materials.  Through this concept students will see and understand the practical application for the common core curriculum. Credit will be earned in multiple classes for completing the design of a portfolio and solving an engineering problem.

The National Middle School Association believes that integration of school subjects and collaboration between teachers is one of the keys to creating an exemplarily middle school. This is easier said than done. Morgan Middle School, like many schools in Utah and the nation, has implemented engineering concepts into its Technology and Engineering Education program. However, few schools have integrated engineering concepts into Math classes, Science classes, Technology and Engineering education classes, and an extra-curricular program such as Science Olympiad.  The entire faculty of Mathematics, Science, and Technology and Engineering Education teachers has formed a team to collaborate and implement an integrated engineering education program.

This approach supports the common core standards in Mathematics and English Language Arts and Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects being implemented nationally. The common core math program stresses using mathematics to solve “real life” problems that students can see may apply to their situation. In this project, students will use math in the design process to predict how their mechanism will work and to evaluate its performance.  Students will read, write, sketch, write a conclusion, and compare their solutions to those of others. Their solution is not made from a plan supplied by the teacher.

Solving an engineering problem naturally integrates school subject areas such as Math, Language Arts, Science and Technology and Engineering Education. Students can work as an individual or as a team. Good solutions will require a lot of innovation and trial and error. There will be an advantage to teams that are able to work cooperatively toward a common goal. Students will invent very different solutions to the same problem. They will be able to compare their solution to the solutions of other teams.

This plan highlights the benefits of the new common core curriculum by applying the theoretic knowledge learned in class in a practical way. The benefits and enjoyment of hands-on problem solving activities is obvious.  Congratulations to the educational team of Morgan Middle School.  The collaboration and hard work of the faculty and staff of this school is to be commended.  As is typical of Morgan Schools we again are leading the way to a better education for our students.