Amid a national movement in education to better prepare students in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, the Tennessee Department of Education announces the opening of three new STEM-focused schools this year. The new programs are part of the Tennessee STEM Innovation Network, a collaboration between the department and the Battelle Memorial Institute.
“STEM is an important part of our statewide effort to increase the rigor and relevance of our students’ education,” said Kathleen Airhart, Tennessee’s deputy commissioner of education. “Additionally, these schools will help to fill STEM jobs across the state, while improving the growth and sustainability of our local communities.”
Classes begin Monday at Innovation Academy of Northeast Tennessee, with 80 students in each sixth and seventh grades. The academy operates as a joint venture between Kingsport City Schools and Sullivan County Schools, with the support of Eastern Tennessee State University. The school plans to expand to eighth grade in 2013-14.
“The Kingsport City Schools are proud to be a partner in the creation of the region's first STEM middle school,” said Superintendent Dr. Lyle Ailshie. “It is an exciting time for Kingsport and Sullivan County.”
The Southeast Tennessee STEM School, located on the campus of Chattanooga State Community College in Hamilton County, will open to students the following week, with 75 ninth-grade students. The high school will add an additional 75 students for its first three years.
The first class of students will get to name the school, design the logo and choose the mascot, a process that began in a summer STEM camp convened to introduce the students to each other and to the STEM style of learning.
“The Southeast Tennessee STEM Innovation Hub has helped us create strong partnerships with our regional businesses,” said Rick Smith, superintendent of Hamilton County Schools. “Business leaders are working with our teachers to create curriculum projects that reflect real-world business situations. This collaboration will not only enhance the students’ problem-solving and critical thinking skills, but it will also expose them to STEM career opportunities.”
The Upper Cumberland Rural STEM Initiative kicked off the school year in July at Prescott South Elementary School and Prescott South Middle School in Putnam County. As they transition to become the region’s first STEM program, teachers will be collaborating with the hub at the Millard Oakley STEM Center at Tennessee Tech University.
They will lead students on virtual field trips through the schools’ distance learning lab, and all students will receive iPads to access course materials and take notes.
“Our purpose is to provide our students with the opportunity to invent, discover, and develop themselves so they can move into the 21st-century workforce with the skills they need to be successful,” said Jerry Boyd, director of schools in Putnam County. “The Upper Cumberland Rural STEM Initiative is more than science, technology, engineering, and math. It is the integration of those skills and the development of critical thinking, both of which are required for students to achieve. We are excited to be working with the TSIN and all of our regional partners in this endeavor.”
About the TSIN
The initial TSIN funding for these schools was announced by Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman in March. The TSIN, created by an Executive Order of the Governor and funded through First to the Top, comprises five Regional STEM Innovation Hubs and five STEM Platform Schools. A sixth hub and school are slated to open in West Tennessee in 2013.
Two TSIN hubs and schools have been operational for one year already: In Knoxville, the Karst STEM Innovation Hub and L&N STEM Academy; in Nashville, the Middle Tennessee STEM Innovation Hub and Stratford STEM Magnet High School.
The hubs are the nucleus of regional STEM activity, representing a formal partnership among school districts, post-secondary institutions, STEM businesses and community organizations, all committed to amplifying and accelerating the impact of STEM programs in their region.
Battelle is a research and development organization and one of the nation’s leading charitable trusts, focusing on societal and economic impact and actively supporting and promoting STEM education.