Last month, Harpeth Hall's middle school program was recognized as a top three finalist for the STEM Excellence Award at the FETC national conference in Orlando, Florida. This award affirms the excellence of our math, science, technology and computer science programs, but an essential component of this recognition was also the way we connect STEM to arts and humanities.
One of the ways we do this successfully is by making engineering a prominent focus in our middle school STEM program, where process is emphasized more than product and students can meet expectations by creating as simple or complex a solution as meets their individual desire or ability. In math students redesign cereal boxes to reduce cost/packaging, or to make them easier to ship. The most useful innovations come about through systematic processes that utilize the creativity, knowledge and skill of individuals working together toward a goal that serves a clear purpose.
At Harpeth Hall, STEM+ is a mindset that permeates much of what we do. It is common to see joint projects between math and art, English and science, or engineering and social studies. Our students solve real problems - when our sixth graders needed insect specimens, they used their research on habitat and behavior to engineer unique insect traps. The engineering design process provides students with a familiar foundation, even as the problems they solve become more complex. Our students engineer in groups, learning important communication and compromise strategies.
We also succeed by implementing research based practices starting in fifth grade that have been found to correlate directly with success for women in STEM majors in college and beyond. Some of these practices include spatial reasoning curriculum, real life engineering problems to solve, applied STEM, and exposure to women in diverse STEM careers.
So, when you see your daughter constructing an electronic toy, or closely following the raucous ride of the stock market, or coding her own website or app, know that we are intentionally building a foundation for her that will make her a confident STEM thinker, ready to learn and innovate and dream big.