We are so incredibly fortunate at the Dearborn STEM Early College Academy that we were able to move into a brand new $72M school building that was intentionally designed and built for STEM learning this year. This was all made possible because of the vision of the City of Boston and Boston Public Schools and the advocacy and commitment of Dudley community partners. The spaces created for collaboration and exploration, the science labs and fabrications spaces, and the attention to light and movement make being in the building an uplifting experience for students, families and educators. But what may be most significant about the building may not be what’s inside, but rather the view from our North and East facing windows, from which we can see the Prudential and Hancock and the rest of downtown Boston, as well as the rising buildings in the Seaport.
If we do our job well, our students will not only have access to terrific learning opportunities within this building, but they will also gain access to a set of opportunities in Longwood and Kendall Square, the Seaport and downtown that will enable them to assume their rightful place in today’s STEM and high-tech workplaces.
At the Dearborn, we have been working hard to create a model STEM Early College Academy with three robust career pathways. As we build Dearborn’s program, we will create, document and collaborate on an infrastructure that can be a template for other schools across Boston.
What’s our rationale? We seek to provide a rigorous, high quality STEM education that leads students not only to being college-ready, but also career-ready. We have carefully examined labor market demand projections and worked with local higher education and industry partners to choose high-demand fields with broad diversity in career opportunities. Based upon that research, we have decided to pursue three interdisciplinary college- and career-focused pathways: Computer Science, Engineering and Health & Life Sciences.
An interdisciplinary approach. We are creating interdisciplinary courses for grades 11 and 12 in each pathway. We are creating these courses through collaborations between our STEM, English and History teachers. Each class will be taught through a common lens with shared content, skills and assessments –developed by our teachers and informed by our industry and higher education partners. We believe that this interdisciplinary approach is an essential component of a career pathway as it supports students to break out of learning content in isolation and engage in learning with authentic connections between subjects and skill sets.
Three Dearborn teachers (one in Computer Science, English and History) have come together to design our first pathway in Computer Science. They have been working in partnership with Microsoft and Wentworth Institute of Technology to develop interdisciplinary classes in the areas of Game Design and Cybersecurity. The team of teachers will continue working together next year to develop a second year experience which will include an additional semester of cybersecurity and an independent research and design capstone project. This capstone project will allow students to make strategic use of our Maker Space to demonstrate their design and development thinking.
Industry and Higher-Ed Informed. Microsoft has been providing feedback on our curriculum and its alignment to the industry to ensure that students are learning relevant and transferable skills. Microsoft will also be providing paid teacher externships this summer to enable teachers to have their own authentic industry experience – which will in turn influence their teaching. Wentworth has worked with teachers to align content and skills so that students feel confident and are prepared to enter Early College classes next year at Wentworth. Additionally, they will host and provide “hook” experiences in their labs on campus for our 10th graders as part of our recruitment process for the pathways. Lastly, we continue to deepen our partnership with the Boston Private Industry Council to prepare students for STEM-specific paid summer internships in their area of study.
Future Planning. We will be developing and launching pathways in Health & Life Sciences and in Engineering for school year 2020-2021. We have begun working with additional partners including Benjamin Franklin Institute of Technology, Bunker Hill Community College, Gillette, MGH and Brigham and Women’s Hospital to create authentic, relevant, STEM-focused experiences that ensure all students are college- and career-ready at graduation.
Join us. We are excited about the prospects these pathways hold for our students, and for students across the city. And we can’t do it alone. We need passionate and committed teachers, industry professionals and thought partners to help us design and implement better and better pathways for our students. If you’re interested in joining this movement, please reach out to us on our Contact page.