Full STEAM Ahead, Virginia!

Discussing STEAM subjects: Caroline Martin, Dr. Judy Stewart, Orlando Robinson, Dr. Michelle Claville, Romdon Roopchan, and Dr. Shannon Chance.

Discussing STEAM subjects: Caroline Martin, Dr. Judy Stewart, Orlando Robinson, Dr. Michelle Claville, Romdon Roopchan, and Dr. Shannon Chance.

Big things are happening in the world of STEM education in Virginia.  Two enterprising educators, Caroline Martin and Dr. Judy Stewart, have founded the Virginia STEAM Academy.  Their public, 4-year residential program in Science, Technology, Engineering and Applied Mathematics is set to open for its inaugural cohort of students in the fall of 2015.  Last summer, Judy and Caroline conducted a summer program to get the ball rolling.

They have been working on the Virginia STEAM project since November 2010, and I’m happy to say that I’ve had some level of involvement since February 2011.  Although I took a year away during my Fulbright fellowship, a Wednesday meeting  on Hampton University’s campus helped me catch back up.

I’m fascinated by two specific aspects of the planning Caroline and Judy are doing: (1) securing and preparing facilities on the former Ft. Monroe that will house 1000 high school students and 75 teachers (who will live on-site with the students) and (2) designing the curriculum to support quality learning and innovative teaching.  They are such innovative thinkers and they know how to get things done!

Their vision for the school is remarkably aligned with the research I’ve been doing on integrating design thinking into engineering curricula and on tracking learning outcomes that accrue as a result of hands-on, problem- and project-based learning.

This Academy is going to open a while new world of possibilities for Virginia and her citizens.  My sister, Heather , was lucky enough to attend the Governor’s School for Science and Technology in Roanoke when she was in high school.  However, the daily commute — an hour each way — was a real strain on her and the other three students from our county who attended with her.  This new residential school will take the burden of daily commuting away, allowing the students and teachers focus on learning and generating new knowledge.

I am thrilled  the school will be here in Hampton Roads, and just a stone’s throw from Hampton University’s campus.

This Academy offers an ideal setting for the study of history as well as STEAM subjects.

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