Photo By: Courtesy of Sheena Vaidyanathan
Sixth-graders in the Los Altos School District demonstrate their skills in computer science at the district’s CSTEM (Computer Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) showcase last month. A Los Altos Educational Foundation grant targeted CSTEM education last year, and next year plans to fund dedicated STEM teachers at each elementary school.
The Los Altos Educational Foundation recently unveiled plans to raise $3.2 million for Los Altos School District programs next year, with an eye to enhancing the district’s science curriculum.
To determine the amount of the annual grant, foundation members survey parents and teachers to identify which programs are successful and to solicit opinions on those the schools’ community would like to add or prioritize.
The foundation will continue to fund the programs it underwrote in 2012-2013 school year, including physical education, library hours, project- and inquiry-based learning, differentiated learning to challenge all students, small-group language arts support for lower grades, reduced class sizes, music and art.
The foundation plans to increase its grant to boost the district’s science curriculum.
“Our parent community asked for an enhanced science program that capitalized on the innovative spirit of Silicon Valley,” said Kristine Bardman, foundation co-president. “With the support of the Los Altos Educational Foundation, the district is planning to do that, and more.”
Beginning in August, each district elementary school will be equipped with a lab room and a full-time Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) teacher who will collaborate with class teachers to reinforce science lessons with lab-based experiments. Students across all grades will participate in a variety of hands-on science lessons in addition to the standard lessons.
Alyssa Gallagher, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, said the district and the foundation decided to focus on STEM education because they heard from parents and teachers that students would perform better with more opportunities in those areas.
“STEM helps bridge those four directions,” Gallagher said. “It helps students use design thinking and project-based learning to apply them in a scientific study.”
District staff is developing the curriculum for the new STEM teaching positions. Gallagher said the new curriculum would not replace the one currently being taught, but is intended to enhance and extend current science learning in the classroom.