Susan Arntson, assistant principal and iSTEM director at Bell Middle School presented city council with a report on iSTEM’s progress after its first year at Bell during the council’s Sept. 26 meeting.
The report came just in time as municipalities move into the middle of their budget cycle. Last year, the city of Golden funded $5,000 to iSTEM at Bell.
Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math or iSTEM is an educational program providing alternative ways for students to learn math and sciences. The curriculum combines all academic components of a traditional curriculum like language arts and history and then pairs it with math and science concepts.
“The kids are learning the same things but they are learning it in terms of a problem to solve so they have a need to learn those skills,” Arntson said.
Students who may not be motivated in class, who struggle with math and science or just have an interest in the sciences can participate in iSTEM.
In the first year of Bell’s iSTEM program, students won regional competitions for their projects, and went to nationals. Student projects included Aquaponics, SeaPerch; an underwater remotely operated vehicle for which two teams won first and third place in the state, and LEGO Robotics.
iSTEM at Bell recruited 60 kids, and will branch out to both grade levels for the 2013-2014 school year with 60 kids in each level. Arntson is working to expand the number of kids who can participate, but funding is needed to support staff. “Growing the program takes more funding to hire more staff,” she said.
Currently there is no data to show how iSTEM has improved student understanding in math and sciences at Bell, but Arntson is working to collect those numbers. Some rough and raw data Arntson shared with council included a peaked interest in girls in the program, a 90 percent positive response from students, an a lot more parent engagement.
“We’re on a great track in terms of student achievement,” Arntson said to city council.
This year, Arntson will work to address challenges facing iSTEM which is to improve the curriculum that is more supportive to students struggling with math while still making it a program that is beneficial and of interest to the student.
An iSTEM elective for one semester will be added for Mitchell Elementary sixth grade kids coming into Bell. The elective will touch on engineering concepts that could spark a deeper interest in iSTEM’s program.
“This money has obviously been well used,” Bill Fisher, councilor for Ward 4 said. “I’m impressed.”
For more information on iSTEM at Bell search iSTEM@Bell Middle School online in your browser’s search engine.