SySTEM Phoenix’s philosophical approach to increasing student achievement in Phoenix is rooted in four foundational beliefs.
Four Foundational Beliefs
1. STEM competencies and scientific values are necessary for success in the 21st century workforce. 2. Socioeconomic status does not determine access to or achievement in STEM fields. 3. Citizens who understand Arizona’s STEM challenges will invest in solving them. 4. Integrated, meaningful educational experiences result in deeper learning.
STEM competencies and scientific values are necessary for success in the 21st century workforce.
The founders of SySTEM recognize not every student will want to become a scientist, an engineer, a mathematician or a computer programmer.
However, the scientific process of asking questions and creating new knowledge in the process of answering those questions is a highly social endeavor, which transcends into all arenas of life. Scientific values push society to question its beliefs and continually improve its understanding of the world. In preparation for the 21st century workforce, STEM competencies comprise what workers need while scientific values describe how they achieve.Both components are intimately connected and must be taught in conjunction.
The following scientific values identified by the writers of the Next Generation Science Standards will serve as SySTEM Phoenix’s academic values:
- Logical Thinking – Think in a clear and consistent manner.
- Precision – Strive for accuracy in word and action.
- Open-mindedness – Entertain new ideas.
- Objectivity – Pursue truth without prejudice.
- Skepticism – Question accepted beliefs.
- Honesty – Represent the truth free of deceit.
Socioeconomic status does not determine access to or achievement in STEM fields.
Due to the increasing need for a STEM workforce, all students can and should be prepared to enter STEM careers after graduating high school. Yet, most students in low-income, minority neighborhoods do not have access to the high quality education they need to enter our country’s increasingly STEM dependent workforce.
The Gates Foundation asserts:
“STEM disciplines pose some of the highest barriers to college readiness for students, especially students from disadvantaged and underserved backgrounds. And yet STEMstudy, when taught well, can be powerfully motivating for students, engaging and nurturing their natural curiosity about how their world works.”
STEM education is therefore simultaneously our collective problem and our collective solution.
Unfortunately, few quality educational options are available to students in Arizona living in poverty and schools providing high-quality STEM education in low-income communities are virtually non-existent. Two-thirds of Arizona adults do not have beyond a high school education, and the majority of its children are first-generation college students. SySTEM Phoenix is designed to provide all students the substantial support necessary to prepare them for the high quality, high skill STEM jobs of the future through quality instruction, individualized intervention programs, and college admission guidance.
Citizens who understand Arizona’s STEM challenges will invest in solving them.
A civically engaged society is critical to providing the fertile ground for interaction and discourse, which is at the core of STEM innovation.
In 2006, academic circles warned: “[It] is more essential than ever that the STEM education community wisely exploit and build upon our past investment in developing intellectual and human resources so that we can effectively deploy them to meet the local, regional, and global challenges we face.”
However, civic participation has been on a steady decline since the seventies. In the book Bowling Alone, Robert Putnam emphasizes the school’s role in fostering civic participation. “The four years of education between 14 and 18 total years have ten times more impact on trust and membership than the first four years of formal education.”12 Students must have opportunities in their educational settings to practice Service Learning in which they learn in order to be of service. Through their experiences, students connect their efforts to their impact and begin a life-long pattern of civic involvement.
SySTEM students will use their learning to act as agents of change. Through service learning, students will identify pressing community issues and engage in the three A’s of service learning, Awareness, Advocacy, and Action.We will foster students who are able to think critically about the world and, ultimately, contribute to improving it. No matter what their chosen field, SySTEM students will become productive and influential citizens, invested in the improvement of their communities.
Integrated, meaningful educational experiences result in deeper learning.
SySTEM Phoenix’s educational approach is founded on the belief that an integrated, relevant instructional model results in deeper learning. Through the context of real-world problems, which are naturally integrated and interdisciplinary, students learn to apply all of their skills and knowledge to create innovative solutions. These learning experiences are more meaningful because they reflect how authentic learning occurs in the workplace and community.
Researchers Geoffrey and Renate Caine explain how rich interdisciplinary learning experiences actually reinforce how the brain naturally learns. “Rather than separating knowledge into discrete partitions, the brain creates a complex web of information that recognizes patterns.”13 In short, integrated learning is about connections. The more connections students forge, the deeper the learning experience and the higher the level of mastery. SySTEM Phoenix will design curriculum and develop instructional methodologies through an integrated model that optimizes opportunities for students to connect learning across content areas.