My school is beginning a year of planning to become an Academy of Engineering (AOE) site. The Academy of Engineering national organization is a fairly new partnership between Project Lead the Way, the National Academy Foundaton (NAF), and the National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering. In my interpretation, AOE’s aims are: building an academy model (students in a smaller, more nurturing school-within-a-school environment, with interdisciplinary teacher collaboration) in urban schools, with the academy focused around engineering–both as a career-oriented pathway and as a means to tie together the academic subjects to a concrete application.
Over the next few days, I’ll be attending the NAF conference in Philadelphia with five colleagues from my school (three others for the AOE, and two who are involved with the Academy of Finance already in place at my school). Here are two things I hope to learn more about at the conference:
- How to build partnerships with industry members to get more internships for our senior students. We have a strong advisory board already in place for the Project Lead the Way (PLTW) engineering schools in Baltimore. Our advisory board has been very generous: lending equipment, organizing field trips, providing mentorships. But internships for every eligible senior, as part of or alongside their culminating senior project, is a goal I’d like to strive for.
- How to develop and implement cross-curricular projects. I’d like our academy to get together and brainstorm a theme each year (or each semester). Then in every class, the students would work on a project related to that theme, anywhere from 2 days to 2 weeks in length. For example, a rough sketch based on the current event of the BP Oil Gusher:
- Engineering class – students model the oil spill on a small scale, develop a variety of potential solutions, then analyze how and why those solutions might or might not work on a larger scale
- Math classes – students estimate the volume of the oil spill, the area of its spread, develop functions relating these [Some great ideas at Math in the News here and here!]
- Chemistry class – students investigate the chemical composition of petroleum
- Biology class – students look at how the ecosystem is affected
- Government class – students critique the pre-spill regulation and post-spill response by the administration
- History class – look at and compare to past oil spills, or review the historical influence of fossil fuels on politics
- Foreign Language class – write, perform, and videotape a news broadcast in the foreign language
- English class – write a persuasive letter to a government official, or develop a cumulative presentation (written report or oral/multimedia presentation) of how everything learned in other classes fits together
Now, I expect an English/science/foreign language/social studies teacher to have better ideas than me on how this fits into his or her subject. But this idea of a sequence of related projects, across subject areas that are usually completely distinct and divorced from one another, is really attractive to me. Students would be better able to see connections between subjects and from each subject to the real world. I am also inspired by the “end of year experiential assessments” discussed by David Wees here.
Both these things I hope to learn about are closely related to the major goals of the Academy of Engineering. So here’s hoping I come back with some helpful ideas toward both! I hope to blog again with updates/reflections soon after the conference.