STEM Initiatives: Innovative 21st Century Learning

Sixty-five percent of today’s jobs require Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math skills, and 16 of the 30 fastest-growing careers demand substantial math and science education. And this is only the beginning. A STEM education will be essential in the work world of today’s children.

The Mebane Foundation believes that it must actively engage students in STEM-related academics and enrichment experiences in order to nurture interest, enthusiasm, and pursuit of STEM careers. We believe that optimum 21st century STEM learning occurs for all students only when optimum 21st century STEM teaching occurs in all classrooms. We believe that we have a profound responsibility to ensure learning for all students by creating, implementing, and supporting innovative and top-quality professional development for all teachers, centering upon inquiry-based methodologies, various technologies for student engagement, integration of STEM curricula across subjects, and the use of community STEM professionals as compelling classroom resources.

In 2012, Moore County Schools received a $2,000,000 + three-year commitment/partnership to launch an innovative professional development model for K-12 teachers known as “STEM Infusion”

Our innovative STEM Infusion program, featuring intensive use of computer technology under the supervision of highly trained teachers committed to this education model, offers a marked increase in the percentage of students from all demographic groups successfully completing challenging STEM courses and prepared to pursue post-secondary STEM careers.

Mebane Foundation has a rich history of employing and investing in these fundamental STEM principles to design and implement projects which boost student achievement by creating 21st century classroom learning environments taught by top-notch teachers.

The Foundation’s focus on creating 21st century learning environments began in 2004 with the Mebane Technology Challenge in Davie County, NC. The Challenge stated that if the county could raise $1.5 million from individuals, companies and civic groups, then the Foundation would contribute $750,000 over a three-year period to add the best educational technology to classrooms in every school across the county.

The challenge was met, and and the funds provided SMART Boards, projectors and laptop computers for all but 80 of the school system’s 500 classrooms, plus pre-K classrooms in five of the six elementary schools.

As a result, students were visually stimulated and engaged in learning as never before, and teachers, many who were resistant to integrating computers into their lessons, became eager to learn more computer/SMART Board applications.

Finally, having technology – and enthusiasm for it – in all classrooms laid the foundation for the innovative professional-development models to come through Foundation initiatives: Mebane Masters and Stem Infusion.

Research shows that the most influential variable in student learning in the classroom is the level of expertise and skill of the teacher. Having all of the technology in the world is useless unless you are trained to use it.

Seeking to enhance learning through a far more effective use of technology, the Mebane Foundation collaborated with Davie County Schools and Appalachian State University’s Reich College of Education in 2008 to create a 30 month, first-of-its-kind, academic degree program for 15 Davie County teachers.

These teachers remained in their Davie County classrooms while pursuing their Master of Arts Degrees in Instructional Technology. The training prepared them to serve as their school’s primary resource for questions about the best and most practical ways to maximize technology’s benefit in the classroom. It was the Foundation’s first look at real-time, teacher-driven, in-house professional development.

The student-teacher component became another crucial piece of the Mebane Masters Program. Over five semesters in 2½ years, 60 Appalachian State University student teachers were housed in Davie County, spending their 15-week semester paired with one of the 15 master teachers. This technology-rich environment paired with an innovative spirit created an exciting learning environment for Davie students, student teachers, and master teachers alike.

Most of these master teachers remain in Davie County and continue to embrace their professional-development roles. Also, many of the student teachers who rotated through the program decided to teach in the Davie County Schools.

The Mebane Masters Program not only substantially improved education for students in every classroom at every grade level throughout Davie County Schools, but it also:

  • Created a powerful, new model for teacher education and professional development.
  • Made it much easier for Davie County Schools to recruit and retain the best teachers.
  • Laid the groundwork for STEM Infusion.

Expanding upon the the success of the Mebane Masters program, STEM Infusion facilitated further STEM innovation through the creation of three, 5-member traveling teaching teams that provided training and assistance wherever needed.. Each STEM team was composed of a highly skilled and experienced teacher, a beginning teacher, and three student teachers. These elementary, middle, and high-school teams assisted classroom teachers with creating and implementing engaging STEM lesson plans using technology. In addition, a new website was established by the STEM team to share resources, including lesson plans.

End-of-grade results showed improvement in student achievement growth in classrooms where teachers adopted the STEM Infusion approach to teaching and learning.