STEM (Grades 6-8)
In 2014-15, District 47 introduced STEM classes to all students in grades K-8. At the middle school level, in partnership with Northwestern University, D47 implemented a new kind of interest-driven STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math) program called FUSE. Specifically designed to engage middle school students, FUSE fosters the development of adaptive problem-solving, creativity, self-directed learning, persistence and grit.
The goal of STEM class is the development of adaptive problem-solving, creativity, self-directed learning, persistance and grit.
- Develop problem-solving skills through pursuit of open-ended tasks
- Accept that failure is a natural part of the ongoing learning process
- Identify areas of interest in STEM related fields by exercising personal choice
- Improve technology skills in the areas of information seeking, presentation, and software sketching
- Deepen collaborative skills through partner and team project work
- Utilize technology to find resources to aid in project completion
- Sharpen time-management skills
In the STEM classroom, the teacher acts as facilitator, encouraging students to problem-solve on their own, consult with their peers, and make multiple attempts to find solutions to problems. With FUSE, students select challenges to solve through modules that have multiple levels. Working independently or collaboratively, students can choose whether to complete all levels of one module or move between modules, and whether to follow step-by-step "hints" to get started or to just “dive in” and try the challenge.
More than 20 FUSE challenges represent such areas as robotics, electronics, biotechnology, graphic design, Android app development, and 3D printing. Each challenge has an objective, criteria, materials, procedural hints, resources (including the FUSE challenge site, other approved websites, software programs, and hands-on kits) and reflection, which includes student artifact submission and electronic journaling. Sample challenges include:
- Robot obstacle course
- Ringtones (for cell phones)
- Creating gel beads (to mimic growing human cells)
- LED color light design
- Designing a clothing line
- Designing a dream home
- Creating laser security
- Designing a cell phone game
- Creating a solar-powered car