Brad Skalstad is a Workforce and Public Policy intern here at Greater Spokane Incorporated and a recent graduate of Shadle Park High School. He’ll attend the University of Washington in the fall and hopes to enter the medical field someday. Here are his thoughts on how STEM education can shape our future.
The first day of school is upon us once again. As a recent high school graduate, I know all too well the stress a new school year brings. For many students, the sudden shift from freedom to structure can be overwhelming. But change isn’t limited to the students. What would happen if we sponsored freedom, ingenuity, and creativity by allowing students to learn in the real world? Let me share a DREAM with you.
D – Develop
In recent years, studies have shown U.S. students to be weaker in the areas of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM). It’s no secret that to fix this issue the response must be specific, focused and engaging. Greater Spokane Incorporated is committed to supporting the STEM regional initiative and working to develop the Spokane STEM Network. We’re excited to see the success of our region’s students, but forming committees and hosting meetings are limited without action. So what’s the next step?
R – Realize
Schools in the Spokane area have done a thorough job of delivering a traditional education, but the current national trend begs the question: is it enough? Are we providing the tools necessary for our students to not just survive but excel in today’s world? Two new schools will open their doors this year to expand student learning: Mead School District’s Riverpoint Academy located in the University District, and Spokane Valley Tech* in Spokane Valley. The plans have been realized, grants written, funding secured and the support mustered. But what’s so different about these new facilities?
E – Engage
These two new schools will begin the process of strengthening the bridge between the workforce and education by providing direct interaction between students and business leaders and a bolstered focus on STEM-related programs. Diving into fields such as science, engineering, mathematics, the arts and humanities and entrepreneurship via an interdisciplinary approach, high school students will learn to solve problems collectively and gain exposure to the way the working world interacts. In many cases, students will learn directly from professionals and teachers both. The opportunities are there, we just have to help students find them.
A – Amend the Norm
Creativity is the goal. Connecting students with employers and creatively amending the normal learning structure will prepare our students for their careers and college. And yes, there may be problems, but isn’t innovation and learning to solve problems in new ways what education is really all about?
M – Move Forward
The Riverpoint Academy and Spokane Valley Tech will continue to develop in the years to come, realizing the vision of improving STEM education in Spokane. As we engage the community, more information about the needs of our region’s employers will be available to up-and-coming students for future success. The school systems of Spokane, together with Greater Spokane Incorporated, the Spokane STEM network and Washington STEM, are definitely doing their part in helping STEM education come alive.
Moving forward, it’s really more than just a dream.
*Spokane Valley Tech will break ground on its school on Aug. 28 at 11:00 a.m. at the old Rite Aid building next to Rosauers on the corner of Sprague Ave. and University Rd. The Riverpoint Academy will hold its grand opening Sept. 13 at 2:00 p.m. in the Innovate Washington (formerly Sirti) building.