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Norwin School District looks to expand STEM

| Wednesday, March 27, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Norwin School District administrators hope to stress the importance of science, technology, engineering and mathematics – or STEM – courses to students by offering more classes, camps and competitions.

District officials hope to begin developing several new courses and STEM-based activities for students at every grade level before the end of the year, according to Tracy McNelly, assistant superintendent of secondary education.

“We want to build awareness of the STEM fields with our students as early as kindergarten,” she said.

The district plans to add eight additional courses and about a dozen STEM-based activities across the district in the next two to three years, McNelly said. The additional programming would not cost the district more money, because officials hope to secure grants for any new equipment, she said.

The plans also do not require any additional teacher hires, McNelly said.

The district offers robotics courses in third and fourth grades, along with grades seven through twelve, McNelly said.

She said administrators plan to apply for a $60,000 grant from the Pittsburgh-based Grable Foundation to implement a robotics program in grades five and six.

“We currently have it in the elementary, middle and high schools, but not Hillcrest,” McNelly said. “This would really help complete our robotics continuum.”

The district offers the majority of its STEM courses in grades seven through 12, but hopes to continue to build upon their existing curriculum, McNelly said.

Next year, officials plan to develop STEM academies for students in ninth grade to work on during their activity period, McNelly said.

“We want things to deal with authentic real world tasks, problem solving and really get kids working together,” she said. “Not all kids are going into the STEM fields, but we want opportunities for all kids to be exposed to it.”

Superintendent William Kerr said the expanded curriculum and activities is a good way to get students prepared for future vocations, and make Norwin students more competitive in the job market.

“It's not just in Norwin, but nationally, there is a lack of skilled workers in STEM related businesses and industries,” Kerr said. “We want to fill that gap.”

Brad Pedersen is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8626, or bpedersen@tribweb.com.

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