The Lake Oswego School District has made a commitment to STEM — and it is not alone.

LOSD is among 12 school districts, two community colleges, three universities and various local out-of-school programs and employers comprising the South Metro-Salem STEM Partnership, a collaboration focused on increasing student access and success in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

The South Metro-Salem STEM Partnership aims to increase science and math achievement among students in partner districts and targeted schools by 2025 by conferring on the teaching of STEM subjects, which, according to a Memorandum of Understanding signed by the Partnership’s signatory partners Dec.14, “will be correlated to career opportunities for students in areas such as natural resources, medical sciences, computer science, engineering, life, environmental and physical sciences.”

LOSD has agreed to work with South Metro STEM Center (a network of mentors, programs and events that inspire students and sponsors to highlight the value of STEM activities) and partnering schools to develop and implement systemic STEM education in grades K-12 in the following ways: identifying and sharing effective STEM instructional practices, materials and resources; collaborating with STEM Center to design professional development for teachers and administrators; hosting training events and provide space for meetings and professional development; and disseminating action research on curriculum, instruction and assessment.

STEM education is nothing new.

“The most recent state standards have engineering design requirements. Therefore many of the engineering projects have been incorporated into the curriculum in K-12,” said Donna Atherton, LOSD director of secondary education, adding that LOSD currently is working with Portland State University to create engineering projects for a watershed unit at the sixth-grade level, that both Lake Oswego and Lakeridge high schools offer a principles of engineering course and that “there are also extracurricular opportunities for students in science, math and robotics,” as well.

Now, STEM is branching out.

“I expect a new high school course proposal will be presented to the (Lake Oswego) school board in early 2013,” Atherton said. “I also expect that other opportunities as well as cooperative relationships will become available through our South Metro-Salem STEM partnership.”

LOSD Superintendent Bill Korach agreed.

“A coherent focus on science, technology, engineering and math will be of great benefit to our students,” he said. “We already have a successful robotics team, elementary science labs and engineering in our high schools. We also have a strong math-science emphasis in our schools. This new collaborative partnership will allow us to benefit from the expertise of our partners to the benefit of our students.”

And to Roxie Hecker, senior program manager at the Lake Oswego office of 3-D design and engineering software designer AutoDesk, this will be highly beneficial in the long run.

“I want to help girls overcome this view that girls shouldn’t be good at science and math,” she said. “There’s a huge shortage of engineering students coming out of our universities, so we’re really engaged with everything we can do to get people to be engineers.”

Hecker added: “These are our future employees, and we think these are the people who will solve the problems that my generation is leaving them.”

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