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City stresses STEM Pipeline, career and technical learning

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Martinsville City Public Schools has expanded and enhanced its curriculum, emphasizing its STEM Pipeline, project-based learning, career and technical education and other skills students need to be ready for college, career and citizenship.

“The MCPS STEM Pipeline is a pre K-12 initiative focused on developing the skills and interests of students in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) career pathways,” the division website says.

Angilee Downing, assistant superintendent of instruction, and Crystal Ritchson, career development coordinator, added the following information.

New this year, students in grades K-3 will be given engineering challenges. Also, a robotics class is being offered for students in grades four and five, and after school, students can compete in robotics in the FIRST LEGO League.

At Martinsville Middle School, robotics instruction will continue through the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Science, Engineering, Mathematics and Aerospace Academy (NASA SEMAA) class, with opportunities after school for competition through the FIRST LEGO League.

At Martinsville High School, engineering explorations was added as a class last semester. It was so popular that this year a second-level engineering class has been added to deal with engineering analysis and applications.

MCPS will continue to partner with James Madison University for MHS students to study robotics in a dual-enrollment program.

Also at MHS, a maker space (a place where students can make prototypes) has been added, as well as a 3-D printer and computer-aided-design software.

MHS 11th- and 12th-graders have an opportunity to enroll in Patrick Henry Community College’s new advanced film manufacturing program.

“Eleventh-graders who begin this fall and continue through 12th grade will complete eight of the 10 courses toward achieving the advanced films certification (24 out of the 28 credits),” Ritchson wrote in an email.

“Twelfth-graders beginning this fall will complete four out of the 10 courses (12 out of the 28 credits). Upon graduation, students may continue at PHCC to complete the certificate and be guaranteed an interview with a local advanced manufacturing employer. The program will also earn them credits toward an associate degree in general engineering technologies,” Ritchson wrote.

A new program at MHS is Virginia Teachers for Tomorrow, targeting students interested in becoming teachers. It reflects a recommendation of the school division’s minority recruitment task force. There is enough student interest to offer two classes.

“We are very pleased and looking for that to grow,” Downing said.

MCPS is implementing Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) this year in grades three and six, with a planning year for grade nine. The program will be implemented in grades four, seven and nine in 2015-16.

“AVID’s mission is to close the achievement gap by preparing all students for college readiness and success in global society,” a brochure states.

AVID helps develop such skills as time management, organization and note taking, Downing said.

Also new this year, MCPS has received a grant to provide a small laptop/tablet computer for every student in grades nine and 10, and the division is launching a bring-your-own-technology (BYOT) initiative for students in grades 11 and 12. Eleventh- and 12th-graders who don’t have their own technological devices will use the school’s.

The division also has purchased software that will enable students and teachers to communicate and share documents.

For its career and technical education (CTE) program, MCPS is beginning to offer a virtual job shadowing program through

The school division will continue to offer local job shadowing, internships and other workplace opportunities.

Downing and Ritchson said they feel the division offers a comprehensive CTE program that is growing in such as areas as health occupations services, among others.

CTE program areas and courses include (dual enrollment courses through PHCC are noted with that acronym):

• Agricultural education (PHCC);

• Business and information technology: computer information systems; advanced computer information systems; accounting; business law; business management; design, multimedia and web technologies; digital input technology and keyboarding, both middle school;

• Career connections: entrepreneurship education (middle and high school), Make It Your Business and career investigation, both middle school;

• Family and consumer sciences: culinary arts 1 and 2, and Virginia Teachers for Tomorrow;

• Health and medical sciences: introduction to health and medical sciences, medical terminology, health assisting careers;

• Marketing: principles of business and marketing;

• Technology education: engineering explorations 1 and engineering analysis and applications; introduction to technology, inventions and innovations, and technological systems, all middle school; technical drawing and design, architectural drawing and design, and advanced drawing and design, all PHCC;

• Trade and industrial education: TV production 1 and 2; auto body technology 1 and 2, motorsports 1 and 2, HVAC 1 and 2, and building trades 1 and 2, all PHCC;

• MCPS also offers courses in partnership with New College Institute at the Academy for Engineering and Technology.

MCPS is encouraging CTE students to get industrial certifications, which will make them more marketable.

Downing said MCPS views CTE at the top level of learning because through it, students apply what they have learned in their career paths.

In the seventh grade a student’s career path is mapped out, and it is reviewed at least once a year by guidance counselors. Students may choose to change their career paths.

It’s not a matter of which is better, college or career, or four-year college or two-year college, Downing said. None of them is better than the other. It’s a matter of what education the student needs to reach his or career goals, Downing said.

She also said that project-based learning and 21st century skills, including the four Cs (critical thinking, communication, collaboration and creativity), are focuses throughout MCPS’ curricula.

Project-based learning involves such things as giving students a problem or challenge, having them work in groups to solve the problem or challenge, testing their solutions and presenting their findings. Doing this helps students apply what they have learned and not just recite facts.


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