Engineering, lessons on the elements of art in design and digital electronics could all lead to future careers for Mesa students.
So the Mesa Unified School District is taking steps to make science, engineering, technology, engineering and math (STEM) lessons available to younger students, with pathways to future classes in junior high and high school.
Through grants already in place — with the possibility of more to come — the district wants to see how it can spark an interest in STEM careers early on and then keep that interest flamed all the way through graduation, said Vicki Massey, a science specialist in the Mesa district.
“The district is going to start — hopefully with grant money — a STEM pipeline for the feeder schools that go into Westwood (High),” Massey said.
The district also wants to add a summer STEM-focused program for students who are struggling, a summer career exploration program, and an afterschool STEM club, she said.
The district already has several STEM programs in place, including Project Lead the Way at Fremont, Stapley, Rhodes and Kino junior high schools. Next year, classes will be added at Shepherd, Carson and Taylor junior highs and Summit Academy.
Project Lead the Way’s middle school program is a “gateway to technology,” introducing students to STEM concepts, such as engineering.
Red Mountain and Mountain View high schools also have the program. Other STEM programs already in place in Mesa include biotechnology, biomedicine, drafting and design technology and financial services at different high schools.
“We’re looking at adding quite a few resources to expanding the engineering program at our junior high schools and the high schools,” said Marlo Loria, who leads the Mesa’s district’s career and technical education department.
Students may learn more about the STEM fields during the district’s SciTech Expo, 4 to 8 p.m. Feb. 28 in the Red Mountain High School cafeteria, 7301 E. Brown Road, Mesa. Nearly 60 exhibits will showcase innovative educational programs and student achievement in science, technology, engineering and math in the district.
The free event includes robotics, air and space simulations, the district’s science fair finalists and more.
Mesa vice mayor Alex Finter said the moves the district is making will not only help students, but the community.
When businesses look to move to Mesa, they want to know how the schools are rated. They also want to know how workforces are being created.
“They’re looking for a future workforce that has those technical skills, technology experience and mathematics skills to be able to work in those fields,” he said. “We’re anxiously engaged in trying to attract economic development and big business to Mesa.”
He pointed to the move of Able Engineering from Phoenix to Mesa as an example of that.
“They are going to bring upward of 600 new jobs,” he said. “They’re going to need that workforce, especially on the technical level to be able to fill those jobs.”
The city hopes to add 100,000 new jobs to the Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport area in the future — many will be technology, engineering, math and science-based.
“It’s exciting, the possibilities. This is what we’re trying to sell them on — a holistic look. When you come to Mesa you’ll have this amazing school system with the STEM program and get the kids into the new Wilkes University with its amazing engineering program.”
Loria said that’s why the district is looking to make these connections.
“If we can get kids interested at the elementary level, we want to make sure there are courses available at junior high and high school,” she said. “We want to foster that curiosity even further and hopefully lead them onto that career pathway.”
What: Mesa Unified School District SciTech Expo
When: 4 to 8 p.m. Feb. 28
Where: Red Mountain High School cafeteria, 7301 E. Brown Road, Mesa
Details: Nearly 60 exhibits will showcase innovative educational programs and student achievement in science, technology, engineering and math in the district. The free event includes robotics, air and space simulations, the district’s science fair finalists and more.
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