County School's STEM Initiative Underway With 75 Students On Chattanooga State Campus

Tuesday, August 28, 2012 - by Gail Perry

“Support our STEM Initiative” is the message that Tracey Carisch brought to the Brainerd/East Brainerd Chamber of Commerce meeting Tuesday morning. STEM is an acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. Adeptness in those skills has been identified as deficient from students coming out of the public school system in Tennessee, yet it is competency in these areas that businesses are seeking. 

Funded by grants from Battelle Memorial Institute a charitable trust and from the U.

S. Department of Education’s “Race to Top” program, Southeast Tennessee was able to establish both a STEM school and a STEM Innovation Hub. Ms. Carisch is the managing director of the Southeastern Hub which serves 17 counties and is managed by the Public Education Foundation. The Hub serves as the nucleus of STEM partnerships, information and community activities. It is instrumental in informing people about the STEM initiative and in acquiring businesses to partner and get involved with the schools. 

The STEM school in Chattanooga is located on the campus of Chattanooga State Community College and has a freshman class of 75 the first year with a plan to add 75 more, for each of next two years, eventually having an enrollment of 300. Grades are from 9-12, and are completely paperless with each student working from an iPad. Teaching is done in “flip classrooms” where students watch videos before the class and the teachers help apply the video to real world situations.

Ms. Carisch said “the goal is to get rid of the question - When am I ever going to use this?” The hope is that students will get a real understanding for the subject matter. The Hub aims to integrate processes used in the STEM schools, into all schools and to make science and math a priority.

These institutes will not only teach science and math, but will integrate the arts into the curriculum. According to Ms. Carisch, all subjects will be woven into the courses of study with students being taught to think critically to solve problems.

Admission to the school is by a “double-tiered lottery system” to ensure diversity and district-wide representation. Each high school zone is allotted a certain number of slots based on the student population of the zone. The lottery occurs within each individual zone. 

If a small business wishes to get involved, the Hub will be able to connect them to whoever needs help, said Ms. Carisch. As an example of how a business can participate, she said that teachers were given a tour of the Volkswagen facility in order to see the type of skills that the kids will eventually need. 

In addition to the guest speaker, the East Brainerd/Brainerd Chamber of Commerce spotlighted a non- profit association and a business at the meeting Tuesday. Lisa Bishop, executive director the American Cancer Society of Chattanooga, told the chamber members that a new Cancer Prevention Study (CPS3) recently signed up 563 people to participate in a 20-25 year study which she was proud to say, exceeded the number that volunteered in Nashville. She also announced that “Making Strides”, sponsored by the Cancer Society will be on Sunday, October 28 at Coolidge Park to support research and local programming for the cause of breast cancer. She also said that the organization is seeking drivers to transport cancer patients to and from their treatment sessions. This program named “Road to Recovery” is the number one need of patients who have no family or friends available to drive them, because “if you can’t get them there, you can’t cure them”, she said.

The business spotlight for the month was on Academy Sports. It was noted that the company made a dead space active again, when they moved into the space formerly occupied by Circuit City. Lance Shumate representing the company said since 1938 Academy Sports has participated in community involvement by donating school uniforms or vouchers for them. The company gives away 30 bikes yearly in every major market and donates money to sports teams in local high schools and colleges. 

Vanessa Cole, vice president of membership for the Brainerd/East Brainerd Chamber of Commerce, told those present that there is a new benefit being offered that should help in recruiting new members. First Data credit card processing will provide a security system to remove any sensitive data to chamber members at no cost. It also will speed up the process to receive funds the following day.

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