Developments in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) lead to innovations, new products and processes that sustain the U.S. economy and trained workers in these areas play a key role in the ongoing growth and stability of our nation. To respond to the needs of this growing marketplace, Malden Catholic High School added a 4-year STEM Certificate and 3 Project Lead the Way (PLTW) engineering courses to the curriculum in fall 2019. Malden Catholic is one of the only schools in the major metropolitan area to offer PLTW courses that engage students in compelling, real-world challenges that allow them to step into the role of an engineer with a problem-solving mindset and determine functional solutions.
According to the National Foundation, scientific and technological innovations have become increasingly important in the 21st century as we face the benefits and challenges of both globalization and a knowledge-based economy. The U.S. Department of Commerce also cited that STEM occupations are growing at 17%, while other occupations are growing at 9.8% and STEM degree holders have a higher income even in non-STEM careers. “We believe that STEM curriculum and PLTW creates critical thinkers, increases science literacy and enables the next generation of trained innovators,” stated John Thornburg, Malden Catholic Headmaster. “We added this challenging STEM curriculum to give our students every possible advantage and the means to become highly successful leaders as they prepare for their college careers.”
“Our intention is to prepare students for the global workforce,” stated Dr. Diane Perito PhD, Malden Catholic STEM Director. “We offer an outstanding foundation for students with skills in science, technology, engineering and math to help them build interest and launch a future career track that began with an MC STEM certificate,” she commented. “We recently built 3 new PLTW laboratories to simulate modern work environments with experiential learning space and adjacent computer labs for data manipulation. Plus, we will expand the offering to include 12 PLTW classes over the next 2 years.”
(Students programming a robot to run an obstacle course)
To forge a path in the information-based and highly technological society, students need to develop capabilities in STEM at levels far beyond what was considered acceptable in the past. The Malden Catholic STEM Certificate requirements include completing 4 years of mathematics, 4 years of science, 1 semester of Introduction to Technology, and 3 STEM-based elective credits which may include AP Chemistry, AP Physics, AP Calculus, AP Computer Science, Intro to Computer Science with Python, Java Programming, Robotics I: Mobile Robotics, Anatomy and Physiology, Marine Biology along with the 3 new Project Lead the Way engineering courses- Intro to Engineering and Design, Principles of Engineering and Environmental Sustainability. Students must also maintain a grade of 85% and above in all STEM courses.
STEM activities provide hands-on and minds-on lessons for students. Beyond the classwork, the teens are required to participate in extracurricular STEM-based club such as the Chemistry Club, STEM Club, Model Bridge, and Robotics, for a minimum of 3 years. To earn a STEM Certificate, students must also participate in the STEM Innovation Fair for three separate years. This includes choosing and researching a topic of interest, conducting independent research and experimentation, and presenting their findings at the STEM Innovation Fair. In February 2020, the fair will be held at Malden Catholic and from there, six students will advance to the Regional Competition held at Tufts University in March. Winners from that event will then move on for a chance to win the State Competition held at Massachusetts Institute of Technology in May.
The STEM Certificate can be achieved in two ways, through a standard track or in an AP/Honors track. Students who achieve the certificate through AP/Honors are also required to take one AP course, one Project Lead the Way engineering course and a third AP or PLTW course. They are also required to obtain a qualifying score of 3 or higher on AP exams and must receive a rating of proficient or higher score on the PLTW End of Course Assessment.
As an additional benefit for those who complete the STEM certificate, students can apply for “AP + PLTW Student Achievement” recognition on College Board application and for college credits for STEM and Project Lead the Way AP courses.
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