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BHUSD Introduces Cutting-Edge STEM Curriculum

Each of Beverly Hills' four middle schools now has a STEM lab with 15 computers with 3D CAD software, specialty tables and stools, and kits to carry out hands-on activities and teacher training.

Credit: BHUSD
Credit: BHUSD
BHUSD officially implemented STEM education into the middle school curriculum for the 2013-14 school year.

Across the country, educators are stressing that in order for America to remain economically competitive, the next generation of leaders must develop critical-reasoning and problem-solving skills acquired through STEM education (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.)

The BHUSD’s Academic Advisory Committee, made up of the superintendent, administrators, teachers, parents and community volunteers, launched the BHUSD STEM initiative. This committee determined which academic program was best, what grade level to emphasize, the type of equipment to purchase, and the amount of funding needed to create a successful program.

It was decided that implementing STEM in 6th grade would be the starting point and $399,000 in funding would be needed. The Foundation BH, in affiliation with all four kindergarten through eighth grade PTA’s pitched in to provide $160,000 to supplement the funding.

Each of the four middle schools now has a STEM lab with 15 computers with 3D CAD software, specialty tables and stools, and kits to carry out hands-on activities and teacher training. “Project Lead the Way – Gateway to Technology” was selected as the curriculum of choice, and used by most school districts in the country, to challenge and engage the natural curiosity and imagination of middle school students.

The middle school STEM central question selected as the working theme, which Beverly Hills Unified middle school teachers will collaborate around is: How do we build positive change, connections, and responsibility in a global society?

California Superintendent of Schools Tom Torlakson personally called BHUSD Supt. Dr. Gary Woods to say how proud he was of Beverly Hills Unified being such forward thinkers and implementing STEM education beginning at the 6th grade level.

“Our plan is to introduce our younger students to fun, hands-on experiments which are the foundation of STEM thinking and learning," Dr. Woods said.

“Our middle school STEM program aims to provide every student with an opportunity to participate in STEM activities that will prepare our students for college, career and a global economy" adds Jennifer Tedford, BHUSD chief academic officer, BHUSD.

Officials recently documented the STEM learning environment at Beverly Vista School with a visit to lead STEM teacher Alana Castanon’s sixth grade science class. During the first semester's design and modeling unit, students begin to recognize the value of an engineering notebook to document and capture their ideas. They are introduced to and use the design process to solve problems and understand the influence that creative and innovative design has on our lives.

Students use industry standard 3D modeling software to create a virtual image of their designs and produce a portfolio to showcase their creative solutions. The class recently demonstrated what they have been learning in the Design and Modeling Unit by creating a hands-on cardboard Skimmer: drawing the individual pieces from a template, cutting, assembling, decorating and finally showcasing their completed project with their fellow classmates with a race to see which Skimmer performed best. They then shared a peek into their engineer notebooks showing intricate 3D isometric sketches portraying their individual personalities.

With the assistance of the new laptop cart and 3d modeling software (Autodesk Inventor Pro) the students demonstrated how to design a 3D cylinder.
Watch video here. http://tinyurl.com/k2uxtv4 See images here. http://tinyurl.com/mya5laf

Currently Beverly Hills High offers a STEM initiative with the medical sciences academy, providing curriculum and classes to students interested in a career in medicine. The long-term goal is that funding can continue which will allow the implementation of the STEM initiative into seventh, then eighth and then high school levels, as well as the lower K-5 grades.

Below is the Curriculum overview:

Gateway To Technology
The Project Lead The Way (PLTW) Gateway To Technology (GTT) program features a project-based curriculum designed to challenge and engage the natural curiosity and imagination of middle school students. They envision, design and test their ideas with the same advanced modeling software used by companies like Lockheed Martin, Intel and Sprint. They study mechanical and computer control systems; think robotics and animation. Students also explore the importance of energy, including innovative ways to reduce, conserve and produce it using solar, thermal and wind power. The knowledge that students gain and the skills they build from GTT create a strong foundation for further STEM learning in high school and beyond.

Throughout GTT, students acquire knowledge and skills in problem solving, teamwork and innovation as well as explore STEM careers. Taught in conjunction with a rigorous academic curriculum, the program is divided into eight, nine-week independent units, assuming a 45-minute class period. Schools implement both foundation units and may add any combination of the specialization units.GTT, intended for grades six through eight, is designed to spark an interest in STEM subjects and prepare students for further study in high school.

Foundation Units
Design and Modeling (DM) – 6th GradeIn this unit, students begin to recognize the value of an engineering notebook to document and capture their ideas. They are introduced to and use the design process to solve problems and understand the influence that creative and innovative design has on our lives. Students use industry standard 3D modeling software to create a virtual image of their designs and produce a portfolio to showcase their creative solutions.

Automation and Robotics (AR) – 6th Grade
Students trace the history, development, and influence of automation and robotics. They learn about mechanical systems, energy transfer, machine automation and computer control systems. Students use a robust robotics platform to design, build and program a solution to solve an existing problem.

Specialization Units: In consideration for 7th and 8th Grade 2014-15 and 2015-16
Energy and the Environment (EE)Students investigate the impact of energy on our lives and the environment. They design and model alternative energy sources and participate in an energy expo to demonstrate energy concepts and innovative ideas. Students evaluate ways to reduce energy consumption through energy efficiency and sustainability.

Flight and Space (FS)The rich history of aerospace comes alive through hands-on activities, research, and a presentation in the form of a short informational video. Students explore the science behind aeronautics and use their knowledge to design, build and test an airfoil. Custom-built simulation software allows students to experience space travel.

Green Architecture (GA)In a world of reduced resources and environmental challenges, it is important to present the concept of “being green” to the next generation of designers and builders. In this unit, students are introduced to architectural plans, construction styles, alternative materials and processes, dimensioning, measuring and architectural sustainability. Students use a 3D architectural software program to create an environmentally friendly home using shipping containers.

Magic of Electrons (ME)Through hands-on projects, students explore the science of electricity, behavior and parts of atoms, and sensing devices. Students acquire knowledge and skills in basic circuitry design and examine the impact of electricity on our lives.

Science of Technology (ST)How has science affected technology throughout history? To answer this question students apply the concepts in physics, chemistry and nanotechnology to STEM activities and projects.

Medical Detectives (MD)Medical Detectives (MD) explores the biomedical sciences through hands-on projects and labs that require students to solve a variety of medical mysteries. Students investigate medical careers, vital signs, diagnosis and treatment of diseases, as well as human body systems such as the nervous system. Genetic testing for hereditary diseases and DNA crime scene analysis put the students in the place of real life medical detectives.

Check out the District’s STEM website for continual updates: http://www.bhusd.org/apps/pages/index.jsp?uREC_ID=31992&type=d&pREC_ID=521099.

Funding and support from The Beverly Hills Education Foundation and the K-8 PTA’s allow for the implementation of academic programs, such as STEM, across all Beverly Hills Unified Schools.

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