Though it may be hard to spot some of them just yet, there likely are future scientists, tech leaders, engineers and mathematicians in the making at Heritage Christian School. It’s with that knowledge that the school’s academic team is taking a strategic approach to the expansion of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education at all levels of instruction. Fulfilling the school’s mission of equipping students for workforce and ministry opportunities in their future means providing them with relevant and progressive learning approaches today. In a plethora of ways, Heritage is making STEM an integral part of the academic excellence for which the school is well known.
- Elementary & Intermediate School (Kindergarten - 6th Grade)
- Middle School (7th & 8th Grade)
- High School (9th-12th Grade)
The middle school STEM focus prepares students to pursue even more knowledge as they prepare to enter high school. STEM offerings in the middle school include:
- Introduction to Project Lead The Way (PLTW) class
- 1:1 technology initiative, making iPads part of everyday learning across subjects
- Middle School robotics program
The middle school robotics program, launched in 2014 with four VEX IQ teams, now boasts 7 teams. The City of Indianapolis, itself a huge supporter of robotics, asked Heritage to host the 2016 Indiana middle school VEX IQ state championship that drew over 40 teams from across the state to the Heritage campus. [Learn more about the HCS robotics program.]
Heritage secondary principal, Phil Nikirk, says high school STEM opportunities are critical because they expose students to potential vocational avenues. “Students get to see the impact of things that used to only be in textbooks. It takes learning off the whiteboard and into real life,” he explains. “Concrete, real-world applications at the high school level help students to see the value of STEM.”
STEM in the Classroom
Heritage high school teacher, Lisa Foster sought out and helped to implement many of the high school’s STEM-focused options for students. She teaches Exploring Engineering and facilitates an online Engineering Roots elective class, as well as high school chemistry and Honors Physics. Guest speakers frequent her classes, out of Foster’s desire to expose students to as many potential STEM career options as possible. [Learn more about high school academics.]
Each year in April, an exciting engineering challenge is presented in the form of a game. Each team must decide how to design and program their robot to successfully score the most points throughout year-round competitions. Our students agree that they love the energy and excitement at these competitions and strive each year to compete with excellence in hopes of qualifying for State, National, and even World Championships! The VEX Robotics Competitions are a great way to encourage students to become future innovators with 95% of VEX/VEX IQ participants reporting an increased interest in STEM subject areas and pursuing STEM-related careers. [Learn more about HCS robotics.]
High School Go-Karting Series
Foster seized an opportunity to get Heritage students involved with Purdue University’s M-STEM3 (Motorsports STEM for Manufacturing and Medicine) High School Go Karting Series. Similar to the International Collegiate GrandPrix, the high school program puts academic and racing skills to the test for students. Heritage student response was overwhelmingly positive. “It’s another avenue for our students to be curious, to problem solve and see things in 3D,” Foster explains. “It’s something with a real-world application.” The Heritage team placed second at the inaugural 2016 competition. The team finished fourth overall in 2017’s competition, sixth in race placement, third place in design review and first place in community outreach. [Learn more about the HCS go-karting program.]
Resources and Professional Development For Teachers
Teachers benefit from several new classroom resources and ongoing professional development opportunities that have sprung from the expanded STEM focus. Twice-a-week optional professional development sessions are offered for faculty, expanding their knowledge on everything from the latest Google apps to classroom best practices.
Heritage has also introduced teachers to BreakoutEDU kits, which they can check out for their classrooms. Each locked box contains a game based on age-appropriate, STEM-focused mysteries and problems. Students use creativity, critical thinking and communication skills to solve the puzzles and open the locks. The new Google Cardboard viewer and accompanying smartphone apps give teachers a fun and affordable way to bring students an educational virtual reality experience.