In 2016, SySTEMic Innovations celebrated its fifth anniversary as a free-standing non-profit. Our five year anniversary report shares highlights of our history and our present, and our dreams for the future.
SySTEMic Innovations is a non-profit, STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) education program designed to create an environment of innovation, critical thinking, and problem solving for kindergarten through 8th grade students and their teachers. We achieve this objective via a robust infrastructure of professional development, materials management, and research-based curriculum. Key to this approach is integrating core academic subjects to lend relevance to real-world applications. By developing the necessary infrastructure to support this type of curricular approach, SySTEMic Innovations capitalizes on community support and economies of scale to support schools, enabling them to achieve long-term, systemic change and produce an innovative 21st century workforce.
I am honored to have been with SySTEMic Innovations since its inception at the Bayer Corporation. Over the past five years, we’ve had the opportunity to positively influence the education of thousands of students. The organization has evolved a great deal since the initiative began in 2003, but one thing remains constant: our commitment to systemic science education reform through a hands-on, inquiry-based curriculum.
Our approach aligns with recommendations from the National Research Council (NRC) Framework for K–12 Science Education. Findings show these practices benefit student learning by:
- supporting science instruction through interdisciplinary connections to language arts and math;
- emphasizing the importance of engaging students more deeply in the process of doing science, not just learning content;
- providing professional development for teachers to deepen their own conceptual understanding of the practices and ideas of science, and
- promoting a greater emphasis on depth over breadth in understanding science spanning multiple school years.
We are grateful for the educators who have joined us in pursuing this vision. We know it is not simply the materials or curriculum that make a difference in how students learn science, but also how teachers utilize those tools to foster critical thinking and real-world connections. This is why we do what we do – to ensure that every student is prepared to face the challenges of tomorrow.
In the 2015-16 academic year, more than 4,000 students participated in hands-on, inquiry-based science education as a part of SySTEMic Innovations’ programs. No one can describe the benefits of the program better than those who have experienced it firsthand.
“When my teacher tells us it’s time for science, we say ‘Yeah!’ Science is the best part of the day. I like working with my friends during our investigations and experiments. When we built roller coasters in class we learned how to do it together. We made some mistakes but helped each other fix them so our balls would go faster and stay on the track. Science is really fun!”
-Addison, 2nd Grade
“As a parent and a teacher, I see so many advantages to an inquiry-based science curriculum. Students love it. It feels like play to them, but they are learning so much! This type of instruction teaches more than science. Students are learning soft skills that will benefit them for the rest of their lives.”
-Tina, Parent and 2nd Grade Teacher
“It is no surprise students often tell me science is their favorite part of the day.”
“You can’t just read about science. In the past, students memorized bits of information and the steps of the Scientific Method without really knowing how they connect and what they mean. When students engage in hands-on learning they get to test an idea, measure the results, conclude their findings, mess up, and try again. It is so powerful! These lessons really prepare students to try multiple solutions, to fail, not get discouraged, and try again until they find a way that works. It is no surprise students often tell me science is their favorite part of the day.”
-Ericka Lang, 5th Grade Teacher, Westview Elementary, Excelsior Springs, Missouri
Our district has transformed the way we teach science. Prior to beginning our partnership with SySTEMic
Innovations, students often only read about science. We now teach science in a focused, intentional, and thoughtful way. Two key pieces have enabled us to do this: ongoing professional development and ready-to-use kits. Teachers have increasingly used the kits because they understand why and how the pieces of the investigations fit together. We have observed that when the teacher feels comfortable with the content, it creates a deeper learning experience for the students. English Language Arts (ELA) and mathematics are connected by selecting reading materials that align with science, making the connections overt for students. The integrated approach fits with how we believe students learn best. We consider a contributing factor to our MAP, State ELA, and math scores to be the thinking, writing, and problem-solving students are required to do as part of the science curriculum. Not only do student test scores reflect gains in knowledge, but our students have also grown in their ability to apply science knowledge in real-world scenarios. Our district–from teachers to parents– is vested in this program.”
–Rebecca Greer, Curriculum Director; Shawnee Heights Unified School District, Tecumseh, Kansas
The future begins now. We can only achieve our vision of preparing all students to be competent in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) with robust community partnerships. Students who are proficient in STEM fields will chart the course to an innovative workforce and improved economic development.
Garnering support from business and community partners will allow us to expand program implementation into new school districts in the coming years. Hands-on investigations require annual investments to replace consumable materials and maintain permanent equipment, making this type of science education cost prohibitive for many school districts. We must continually strengthen our infrastructure to support the districts we serve. Our foundation is solid, and we must actively engage in capacity building efforts to meet increased demand. Together, with strong partners, we can ensure that even more students receive the education they need to meet the challenges of tomorrow.
The innovators of the future are sitting in a classroom right now. The problem-solving skills students develop throughout their education are the skills they will use to build a safer, healthier world for us all. These students are the hope of tomorrow, but only if we prepare them today.
Will you join us in this pursuit of a brighter future?
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You can access the PDF file here.