Models and Examples: Washington STEM Lighthouse Schools
Washington STEM Lighthouse Schools provide technical assistance and advice to other schools and communities in the initial stages of creating a learning environment focused on STEM. They serve as resources and examples of how to combine the following best practices:
- Small, highly personalized learning communities;
- An interdisciplinary curriculum with a strong focus on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) delivered through a project-based instructional approach; and
- Active partnerships with businesses and the local community to connect learning beyond the classroom.
STEM Lighthouse Schools originated in 2010 with the Legislature’s passage of House Bill 2621. The bill directs OSPI to designate as many as three middle and three high schools each year as lighthouse schools. The designated schools must have proven experience and be recognized as model programs. Awards include a grant of up to $20,000.
2014 STEM Lighthouse Schools
2013 STEM Lighthouse Schools
2012 STEM Lighthouse Schools
2011 STEM Lighthouse Schools
Grant applications for schools to become STEM Lighthouse Schools are posted following a Legislative session that provides funding. The application is found in OSPI iGrants Form Package 545. The typical due date for an application is October 1.
Bremerton School District
STATEMENT: Bremerton High School has proudly experienced growth in both science and Math. All science teachers began transitioning to a project-based approach last year and the Biology teachers implemented more intentional interventions in order to prepare students for the Biology EOC. In addition to other strategies, teachers met in PLC’s to review data and align their assessments. As a result, BHS Biology End-of-Course Exam scores (65.2%) exceeded the state average (64.1%). Although we cannot compare the EOC to the HSPE since they are two different tests, it is important to note that the HSPE scores at BHS were dismal and never met or exceeded the HSPE state average in science. All 9th grade science classes are aligned with Algebra 1. Students are enrolled in both at the same time. The same stands true for Geometry and Biology. Math scores for Algebra 1 were 71.2% (the state was 71%). Bremerton High School’s graduation rate has grown from 78.3% in 2009 to 81.6% in 2011; we believe this is due to more intentional interventions toward Math, science, Language Arts , Attendance and Discipline. It is our belief that no one strategy or intervention will make enough of a difference to show growth such as we have experienced at BHS, specifically in science and Math. It takes a concerted effort across the board from the elementary level to the high school. That is why the Bremerton School District initiative to strengthen and enhance STEM education PreK through 12th grade is important. The overall goal of this project is to build capacity for a sustainable STEM education program throughout the Bremerton School District’s K-12 system.
Kennewick, Pasco, and Richland School Districts
STATEMENT: Every moment and every element of Delta High School is focused on student learning. Learning that is intentional and purposeful, based on research and experiences that target specific goals and learning objectives. The major characteristics of Delta include an integrated, interdisciplinary program of study that weaves science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) and the humanities together through the use of hands-on, minds-on, instruction. Delta is supported by a rich partnership between our three collaborative school districts, a state university, a community college, a national laboratory and a foundation that brings together additional community partners from small, local businesses engaged in STEM work. A focus on integrated STEM curriculum in grades 9–10, then on highly individualized STEM outcomes for grades 11–12, is intentional in the school. All students in grades 9–10 are enrolled in math, science, social studies, English language arts, and technology and engineering courses. In grades 11–12, students complete elective science and technology and engineering courses as well as college level world language.
STATEMENT: We are a Lighthouse School because we have purposefully, thoughtfully, and creatively integrated our community, industry partners, AP classes, staff, and school board into the best small-school STEM program in the state. We are already the 9th best high school in the state (US News and World Report) but if STEM were part of the ranking, we would be even higher. It starts with our STEM Ladder, which outlines our goals for the next several years. Next, there is our Board Resolution, which calls for a strategic STEM plan by January 2013. The board, while acknowledging the importance of district participation, also acknowledges that community and industry partners will be vital to their success. These partnerships include a local technology and engineering company and a science department of the University of Washington. We also have consistent and impressive support from local philanthropic organizations. Our staff has displayed remarkable flexibility and commitment by allowing small groups of students to pursue specific STEM curricula within an existing non-STEM class.
Aberdeen School District
STATEMENT: The Stevens STEM project began September 2011 with the intention to radically change the look of education at Stevens Elementary and bring success to all of our students. The staff at Stevens rebuilt our K-6 curriculum. Using National Common Core Standards as a foundation, we created and continue to create project-based learning units for each grade. These units use purposeful instruction to integrate science, math, engineering, and technology. Our program is different because we have also added a strong leadership component. Leadership skills are specifically taught at every grade level, culminating in a two day, overnight Leadership Camp using high school students as mentors. The program is unique and effective because not only does it encompass Preschool through 6th grade, it has strong parental support, it partners with community organizations and it has bonded our staff into a strong, cohesive educational team. Our community partnerships have allowed us to add hands-on science and engineering materials at all grade levels, provide off site, real life educational experiences for upper elementary, bring a variety of volunteers into our building, and allowed our students to share their innovations and new understandings of the world.
Bremerton School District
STATEMENT: The West Hills STEM Academy, grades preK-7 was created in 2011, starting with grades 5–6 and preschool. This is a model school that was created to offer quality STEM programming to children/students in the neighborhood (83% FRL) and other students that wish to join. The preschool portion of STEM is a project with the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction and Boeing that created classroom STEM units to be used in any preschool classroom and shared with others. Bremerton already has a successful history of working with OSPI to train others and was a designated lighthouse district for full-day kindergarten. Due to our success and the fact that we are the first STEM elementary PreK–7 fully integrated model in Washington state and at the initial phase, we are inundated with requests from other school districts to learn from us. We no longer have the infrastructure to support the visits. At West Hills STEM Academy we define STEM literacy as the bridging of science, technology, engineering, and math to promote problem-solving through knowledge, innovation, and the ability to analyze, reason, and communicate ideas. STEM classrooms fully integrate subject areas instead of subjects being taught in isolation. Students learn how to think and apply their skills across the curriculum. They do this by: Engaging in project-based and problem-based learning, collaborating in an active learning environment, paying it forward within the community they live and learning to apply what they learn to real-life 21st century situations. At preschool, teachers doubled their instructional time devoted to STEM literacy.
West Valley School District, Yakima
STATEMENT: Every student at West Valley Junior High School (Yakima) completes multiple STEM courses. Every student in grade 7 completes Computer Essentials and Human Body Systems. Every student in grade 8 completes Green Energy and Sustainable Design. In addition, many students complete elective courses in STEM, such as Robotics and Pre-Engineering. Our Robotics course was selected as a 2011 Washington STEM Grant recipient. Through the program evaluation for the grant, we discovered that students in the Robotic class who qualified for free and reduced lunch demonstrated greater success on the Math MSP than students on free and reduced lunch who did not take Robotics. All students in grades 7–8 are enrolled in one or more CTE STEM classes each year. Some are required (Computer Essentials, Health science, Green Energy and Sustainable Design) and some are elective (Pre-Engineering and Robotics). All of the STEM courses emphasize STEM literacy through project-based learning, creative problem-solving, and engineering/design activities.
Chehalis School District
STATEMENT: W.F West High bridges the four areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics in the classroom as well as outside the classroom. There are several projects in which CTE, science and mathematics work cooperatively in project-based activities. One particular project is the Bio-Tech day. Bio-Tech day allows students to address community issues, explore careers, interact with adult mentors, use technology and present their work to audiences beyond the classroom. Another recently developed curriculum and project-based program is Robotics. Providing project-based curriculums help students learn key academic content, practice 21st century skills (such as collaboration, communication and critical thinking), and create high-quality, authentic products and presentations. W.F. West has a unique and effective approach to learning by looking at community issues or problems in Molecular genetics , Math Lab, and CTE Robotics classes and allowing students to choose a science based project, develop and then present the project at a bio tech day. One of the keys to the success of any project is the “scaffolding” that the chemistry, engineering and math teachers provide for students as their projects are implemented. The “project scaffolding” refers to the various types of support that the teachers can provide during the risky business of project work. Through scaffolding, teachers provide the time, tools and training students need in order to succeed in the projects they choose.
Eastmont School District
STATEMENT: Eastmont Junior High School incorporates strong Career and Technical Education offerings into a comprehensive school environment, supporting the school district’s technology education graduation requirement. A strong focus on application of STEM content is observed through discovery-based learning through problem identification, brainstorming, research, testing, analyzing results, and redesign. We use content management systems such as Moodle to interact in a digital environment with students. This system allows immediate feedback for tests and increased feedback for electronic assignments. Student grades are posted through a system called the PASS Program, in which students and parents can log-in and see progress reports for every class in the school. Mobile laptop carts travel to classrooms that do not have access to stationary computer labs. Software skills are integrated into classroom assignments (word processing, spreadsheets, database, presentation, web page design, graphic arts, etc.). Students build computers from scratch. And students participate in regional and state technology competitions through student leadership organizations.
STATEMENT: Odessa School District's single building is home for all of the 240 students P-12 in the school district. The school district covers 631 square miles and is more than 20 miles from the neighboring districts of Harrington and Wilson Creek. Isolation and our large geographic area requires staff to use creativity and talents to solve problems. Staff members often rely on each other for professional development. Each teacher has chosen their own area of curricular expertise, so instead of bringing in experts from outside the district we provide opportunities for teachers to become the experts and then provide time for them to teach the other teachers on the staff. Students are proud of their school and understand the importance of hard work in achieving their educational goals. The school is truly the center for all that happens in Odessa. The STEM education program began in Odessa several years ago. This change was a vision of a new principal and new high school science teacher that had a common goal of increasing science literacy throughout the P-12 system. With a dedicated fund toward professional development for all K-5 teachers and the adoption of the FOSS curriculum, science education is taught with fidelity each and every day in the elementary school. Students in grades 6-8 all have 50 minutes of science education daily. The high school program and individual students have been nationally recognized.
Tacoma School District
STATEMENT: Science and Math Institute (SAMi) effectively blends science, technology, engineering, and math. Students enter the school through an application and lottery process. The school’s unique approach to STEM is facilitated by its proximity to the natural environment found at its location on Point Defiance. Through a partnership between the school district and Metro Parks, the school utilizes the country’s largest urban park (700 acres). Students and staff have access to Owen Beach, Camp Six, Fort Nisqually, and the Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium. Project-based elective choices in engineering and sciences are bountiful, including Marine Sciences, Robotics, Plant Biology, Astronomy, and Advance Physics. Of particular note is the rich offering of technology-based art classes such as digital photography, digital storytelling, and audio recording. Life sciences are integrated with traditional art media in Animal Life Drawing classes.
Northshore School District
STATEMENT: In 2009, The Northshore School District, in partnership with McKinstry Industries, a local leader in creative energy innovations, and Cascadia Community College's Environmental Technology and Sustainable Practices program, created a comprehensive program for high school juniors and seniors to engage in environmental technologies, sustainable energy practices, management of building systems data, and future career paths in these high demand fields of study. The Sustainable Engineering & Design class, which is housed at the Secondary Academy for Success in the Northshore School District, is an innovative, state of the art program that features an integrated, project-based learning curriculum viewed through the lens of sustainable design. The curriculum features the study of a "stationary lab"—which is the Secondary Academy of Success campus itself—and a "mobile lab" through the retrofitting of a standard cargo mobile trailer. The "mobile lab" project will be used as a mobile renewable energy kiosk for students to learn and teach others about sustainability and renewable energy.
The Secondary Academy for Success campus building is a high-performance, fully integrated smart building that allows all students to see and understand the benefits related to operational and energy efficiency that the smart building brings to the school community each day. The SAS campus features: DDC Controls, lighting and day-lighting systems, demand ventilation controls, whole building metering & sub metering (water, gas & electrical), solar and wind renewable system performance monitoring, weather station, and high level dashboards for educational, operational, and community outreach to demonstrate the performance of facility. The infrastructure system also allows students in the SED program to unlock the building data and normalize it with the facility, which allows the energy data to be studied-therefore turning the building itself into a learning tool for the students. These unique building features allow for scientific experiments and tests as well as methods to track data and overall impact of the building system. Throughout the Sustainability Engineering & Design course, students are consistently challenged to better understand the environmental and economic rewards of building smart.
Tacoma School District
STATEMENT: The overall objective of a Stewart Middle School is “To be a caldron for the blending disciplines known as STEM—science, technology, engineering, and math.” Stewart Middle School is a lighthouse example for the state of Washington as a Title I “turnaround” school, using STEM to spark a reinvention of a school that was not succeeding for its students.
Stewart is unique in its approach to STEM in that the arts are a large factor in integration. Students have project-based elective classes that include rich offerings of technology-linked art classes such as digital photography, digital storytelling, audio recording, and graphic design as well as foreign languages, choir, band, art, and dance. Stewart now offers more technology-integrated arts classes than any other middle school in the South Sound and was recently awarded a grant from the Foss Family Foundation to enhance the innovative Art/Math Pairs program that joins the expertise of classroom math teachers with professional artists, designers, and engineers to create project-based learning.
Toppenish School District
STATEMENT: Toppenish High School, a small, rural school on the Yakama Indian Reservation, has initiated a nationally certified engineering program and started a biomedical strand of courses that have students in this high-poverty district involved in rigorous, collaborative classes. Over 96% of students are classified as Hispanic or Native American and the percentage of students receiving free or reduced lunch is 99.8%. In the first year of implementation of the Project Lead the Way courses, Toppenish High School physics enrollment increased by 54%. The enrollment in chemistry has increased by 198% over the past three years and there has been a 67% growth in the Washington State Science Assessment scores from our 2008-2009 (pre-PLTW implementation) to 2010-2011 school year. In the past three years, the Trigonometry classes have grown 9%, University of Washington Pre-Calculus (for college credit) has increased 232% and University of Washington Calculus has increased 22%. Toppenish High School describes uniqueness in the dedication of its teaching staff. With administration, it was determined that all interested educators that wanted to be involved in STEM would attend training with a colleague and teach the course for which they were trained upon returning. This has led to seven teachers attending 17 intensive two-week educational sessions and allows the school to offer eight different engineering and biomedical courses. This is a remarkable feat for a school of 744 students. Fifty percent of the students enrolled in engineering and biomedical classes over the inception of the programs are female. In addition, the majority of classes do not have a prerequisite. Toppenish STEM programs are all inclusive and convey the belief that any and all students from any background can succeed in STEM courses. The engineering and biomedical programs are made up all types of students - minority students, ELL students, migrant students and students from special programs. Special education to honors classes successfully work side-by-side in collaborative teams.
Highline School District
STATEMENT: Aviation High School has a dedicated STEM focus, with special attention to aviation and aerospace. The grades 9-12 high school is a magnet and enrolls students from several Puget Sound area school districts. Staff and students are engaged in integrated project based learning. The school has a reputation for high performance on state assessments and involvement of the business community in many facets of student learning.
North Thurston School District
STATEMENT: Komachin Middle School represents a comprehensive middle school that embraces environmental issues to promote student success in STEM. To individualize learning, the school is divided into three "dens" that are identical in terms of core subjects. One is immediately impressed with the utilization of professional learning communities and the degree to which departments function as teams. Students are actively engaged in project based learning, and the school has been inventive in providing experiences that expand beyond the classroom.
Mead School District
STATEMENT: Recognized for systemic adoption of engineering and biomedical sciences courses through Project Lead the Way, Mead High School and Mount Spokane High School have exceeded their own expectations regarding enrollment in these courses. In the first year of offering biomedical sciences, over 300 freshmen enrolled in the course. Additionally, Mead School District has been instrumental in effecting an agreement with Washington State University's Spokane campus to provide teacher training in Project Lead the Way Biomedical Sciences. This summer, over 50 teachers from across the nation will be instructed in PLTW curriculum and methods in order to offer the courses in their home high schools.