STEM program expands throughout Portland-metro schools
Author: John Kirkland
Posted: May 31, 2012

Eight schools from Forest Grove to Parkrose will start the process of transforming to a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) curriculum during the next school year as a result of efforts by the Portland Metro STEM Partnership. Portland State University (PSU) is the lead higher education partner in the group.

The partnership, made up of school districts, higher education, businesses and informal educators such as OMSI and the Oregon Zoo, announced the school additions at the Intel-sponsored STEMposium, held April 19.

STEM has been identified by educators, lawmakers and industry as a key component in keeping the American workforce competitive with the rest of the world. It centers on curriculum changes, teacher training, and partnerships with entities outside school.

STEM schools are an exception to the national trend in which less than three hours a week of  science is taught in elementary schools, according to Melissa Dubois at the Center for Science Education. Oregon ranks near the bottom in national rankings for time spent on elementary science, she added.  In contrast, Farmington View Elementary School in Hillsboro has a STEM curriculum, and was recently named an Intel School of Distinction—one of six in the nation—for its science programs.

“Oregon’s economic growth will depend on our ability to fill STEM jobs. Our K-12, higher education, business, and community partners must work together to increase the number of students who graduate from high school and are college and career ready in STEM,” said Bill Becker, a PSU professor and executive director of the partnership.

The schools announced at the STEMposium will start the process of planning, teacher training and working with their outside partners during the 2012-13 school year. Students will start experiencing the full STEM curriculum the following year.

The schools and their districts are:

  • Beaverton: Chehalem Elementary and Highland Park Middle School
  • Hillsboro: L.C. Tobias Elementary School and Quatama Elementary School
  • Portland: Jefferson High School and Boise-Eliot Elementary School
  • Parkrose: Prescott Elementary
  • Forest Grove: Joseph Gale Elementary

The partners who will work with the schools in their STEM transition are:

  • Higher Education: PSU, Oregon Health & Science University, Oregon Institute of Technology
  • Business: Intel, Vernier Software & Technology, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, JP Morgan Chase, McKinstry, and SolarWorld
  • Informal education: Saturday Academy, Environmental Education Association of Oregon, Friends of Outdoor School, Mad Science, Oregon FIRST, OMSI (Oregon Museum of Science and Industry), Oregon Zoo, STARBASE Portland, and TechStart.