Thousands of Richardson ISD students to pilot STEM For All program in 2018-19 school year

Winter guard students at Berkner High School placed first in their division's championship competition.

Winter guard students at Berkner High School placed first in their division's championship competition.

Thousands of Richardson ISD students will experience a new curriculum this year as the district rolls out Year 1 of its STEM For All program.

In May, RISD announced a partnership with the Texas Instruments Foundation and Educate Texas that will integrate Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, or STEM, curriculum at all grade levels in the Berkner High School attendance zone. The intent is to reshape teaching and learning of these subjects to prepare students for postsecondary and workforce success, according to a recent press release.

Kyndra Johnson, the district's executive director of STEM and innovation, said this type of curriculum instills crucial daily-life skills, such as critical thinking and collaboration, and is advantageous for all students, even those who do not pursue STEM-related careers.

"In Richardson ISD we are making sure that our community, parents and teachers are realizing STEM is not a class; it's a culture," she said. "We are not just focusing on those four [STEM] disciplines; we are looking at more of a culture of teaching, learning and engagement."

Johnson was involved in testing the program south of Dallas in Lancaster ISD from 2012 to 2018. She said bringing STEM For All to RISD made sense because of Berkner High School's success in implementing its STEM Academy, founded in 2007, which allows students to study one of three career strands: engineering robotics, aeronautical engineering or biotechnology. The STEM For All program will introduce two new career strands at Berkner: cybersecurity and STEM management.

STEM concepts will be introduced in pre-K and continue through high school, Johnson said, calling the program a "crayons to college to careers" approach. The youngest students will be taught what STEM is and how to harness creativity.

"[Kindergartners] are your best STEM students," Johnson said. "They are always wanting to solve a problem."

Lower-grade curriculum will focus on awareness and exposure, with students learning about STEM careers and attending field trips and college visits. As students matriculate through grade levels they will participate in project-based learning, STEM competitions, specialized clubs and mentorship programs. Starting at the secondary level students will be able to enroll in STEM electives.

The success of the program in Lancaster ISD was most noticeable in its students' state assessment scores, especially among African Americans, whose scores outpaced math and science state averages at every grade level.

"We dispelled the myth that kids with a certain background are low achieving," Johnson said. "We saw gaps widening in student achievement in certain areas, and we leveraged STEM as a way to improve those areas."

RISD recognized the program as a proven strategy, Johnson said, but aimed to go beyond success in test scores. Introducing STEM at an early age to encourage innovation, collaboration and confidence is the broader goal.

"We are trying to strengthen self efficacy ... kids can't be what they can't see," Johnson said.

A cohort of 10 teachers per campus has been selected to implement the program in Year 1, with a goal of all teachers in the Berkner feeder pattern trained in the "future-ready" learning framework by Year 3. The district has partnered with Discovery Education to provide the curriculum and facilitate professional development.

Sixteen schools and 10,000 students will participate in Year 1, but the district's ultimate vision is to begin STEM For All implementation districtwide after three years, Johnson said. The grant provided by Texas Instruments will allot $4.6 million over a three-year period. Johnson said the district has already begun aligning resources and brainstorming ways to sustain the program for years to come.

"We are hoping to forge great partnerships that may lead into opportunities to apply for other funding," she said.
By Olivia Lueckemeyer
Olivia Lueckemeyer graduated in 2013 from Loyola University New Orleans with a degree in journalism. She joined Community Impact Newspaper in October 2016 as reporter for the Southwest Austin edition before her promotion to editor in March 2017. In July 2018 she returned home to the Dallas area and became editor of the Richardson edition.


MOST RECENT

Here is the latest coronavirus update from Collin County. (Community Impact staff)
Collin County reports 28 new cases of coronavirus

Collin County health officials reported 28 new cases of coronavirus May 27.

Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar spoke to members of the Clear Lake Area Chamber of Commerce on May 27 about what the state's post-pandemic economic turnaround might look like. (Screenshot of May 27 virtual luncheon)
Texas comptroller predicts slow, steady economic turnaround post-pandemic

Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar said the state entered the era of the coronavirus in a healthy financial situation, which bodes well for the future as reopening continues, but that Texans are not out of the woods yet.

Nursing facilities across Texas will be able to apply for federal funds to purchase devices to connect residents to friends and family. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Gov. Greg Abbott announces $3.6 million project to connect nursing home residents to families

Gov. Greg Abbott announced May 27 that $3.6 million will be provided to nursing facilities to purchase tablets, webcams and headphones to connect residents with family members.

Strength and conditioning workout areas, such as this one at Berkner High School, are part of the new multipurpose activity centers that recently opened in Richardson ISD. (Courtesy The McShane Companies)
Richardson ISD considers June relaunch for sports workouts, will delay band practice until at least July

Public school districts across Texas will be allowed to relaunch strength-and-conditioning programs and band practices starting June 8, according to the University Interscholastic League.

Several cities in the Dallas area have joined The North Texas Innovation Alliance. (Courtesy Justin Terveen)
North Texas cities join regional alliance aimed at advancing innovation

The North Texas Innovation Alliance comprises 21 founding members, including Richardson, Frisco, Plano and McKinney, among others.

A special meeting of the Commissioners Court will take place May 29 to for a discussion and possible action on continued case management. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Collin County delays shift to state reporting on coronavirus cases

Collin County has postponed shifting its coronavirus case management to the Texas Department of State Health Services, according to a May 26 update from County Judge Chris Hill.

Voters are encouraged to bring their own equipment in order to prevent catching or spreading coronavirus.(Graphic by Matthew T. Mills /Community Impact Newspaper)
State of Texas releases voter health checklist for polling stations in June and July

Texas Secretary of State Ruth Hughs released a checklist May 26 for voters to follow to help prevent the spread of coronavirus at polls.

Tuesday Morning plans to close 230 of its 687 stores in a phased approach. (Anna Lotz/Community Impact Newspaper)
Tuesday Morning files for bankruptcy; 2 Richardson locations to close

The company plans to close 230 locations, including stores in Dallas, Richardson, Irving, Arlington and Murphy.

Baylor Scott & White Medical Center - Centennial is located in Frisco. (Courtesy Baylor Scott & White)
Baylor Scott & White Health to lay off 1,200 after reporting 'drastic drop' in visits

The layoffs represent 3% of the health system’s workforce.

Starting May 29, water parks will be able to open up to 25% capacity. (Kelly Schafler/Community Impact Newspaper)
Gov. Abbott issues proclamation allowing water parks to open

Starting Friday, May 29, water parks will be allowed to open but must limit guests to 25% of their normal operating capacity.

UT Dallas expert says primary care industry poised for seismic shift post-coronavirus

Challenges faced by clinicians could be the impetus for much needed change in the industry, said Britt Berrett, director of the Center for Healthcare Leadership and Management at UT Dallas.

The city of Keller’s first hotel, a Hampton Inn & Suites, is expected to open May 28. (Ian Pribanic/Community Impact Newspaper)
New hotel and small-business grants: News from the DFW area

Read Community Impact Newspaper's coverage of the Dallas-Fort Worth area here.