Chicago Public Schools Showcases STEM Learning Opportunities
08 November 2023
Schools Celebrate National STEM Day November 8
CHICAGO – Students across Chicago Public Schools (CPS) participate in STEM learning every day, many are taking part in special activities today as part of National STEM Day. The November 8 celebration comes as the District reminds families that Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) concepts are accessible to all students and that in-demand STEM careers are also within reach. CPS continues to expand STEM learning opportunities inside and outside the classroom with work-based learning and early college and certification opportunities, allowing students to participate in STEM learning and apply it in authentic, real-world settings.
“STEM is for everyone, not just for certain kids or kids in certain neighborhoods,” said CEO Pedro Martinez. “Every student has access to STEM learning inside and outside our classrooms and we want to help families become comfortable talking about STEM and empower their children to explore STEM concepts and careers.”
The District recently released bilingual Spanish/English “Family Guides to Student Success in STEM” starter packages for schools to help families become familiar with the related learning standards, concepts, and activities by grade band for science and math as well as computer science and STEM integration.
The initiative, shared in conjunction with a STEM family event last month at the Museum of Science and Industry, aims to help counter current trends in STEM learning and the STEM workforce that reflect disparities in terms of who succeeds in STEM. Job reports and research continue to show that women, Black, and Latino workers remain underrepresented in STEM careers, and in top-paying STEM jobs.
Oscar Mayer Magnet School Principal Danielle Drayton ensured the guides were available during the recent report card parent-teacher conferences at Oscar Mayer where families were eager to participate in STEM activities and the student engagement and reception to such activities was “profound.”
“The students’ ability to take something and create with it…to see their minds click in that way, using all their thought processes is really interesting,” Principal Drayton said. “They create phenomenal work.”
James Ward Elementary seventh grade science teacher Misty Richmond said her colleagues and students enjoy daily science classes and lead STEM activities as early as preschool. Students enjoy after-school clubs and field trips that extend their enthusiasm and practice of thinking like scientists.
“One of the things I love most about teaching STEM is seeing curiosity build in students,” Richmond said. “Their questions begin to have more depth. Their approach becomes less about being right and more about learning from their mistakes. Their passion builds, their leadership skills take off, they start to see themselves in the solutions and become more eager to solve problems.”
The District’s STEM offerings remain competitive: CPS remains the only school district in the nation that requires all students to take a computer science course before high school graduation. Additionally, 30 percent of CPS eighth graders are passing Algebra I according to the 2023 Illinois State Report Card, which showed CPS was on par with the State with 31 percent of 8th graders statewide passing the course. Taking Algebra I in eighth grade prepares students to take more advanced math and science classes in high school, better preparing them for college and careers, including jobs in the in-demand STEM workforce.
Across the District, schools host STEM events year-round, as well as a few special events held in the past week and the coming days. Jungman STEM Magnet Elementary School and Phoenix Military Academy are among the schools celebrating National STEM Day today with STEM-based activities.
North-Grand High School hosted a STEAM fest last weekend that drew a crowd of students, parents, and community members.
Tavida McLaurin, parent of an 11th grader at North Grand High School, attended the Saturday event and praised the STEM curriculum at North Grand, noting that her daughter has had the opportunity to explore various interests – operating drones, and taking courses in both the culinary and the medical field. McLaurin’s daughter has spent two years shadowing a Rush University physician, completing both book work and lab work. Such experiences strengthen students’ hope and connection to their school and community.
“We know that research shows students can achieve in STEM when they feel a sense of belonging in their classrooms and schools,” said Kelli Easterly, Executive Director of the STEM Department . “We want to ensure every child, in every school, is feeling empowered to use their STEM skills across every content area in class and out of class.”
CPS will host a second Districtwide STEM family event in the spring and continues to encourage schools to host school-based night and weekend events that celebrate and highlight STEM learning. The District partners with local and national private and public organizations and higher education partners to expand STEM learning inside and outside the classroom. Though more than 50 schools in the District offer a STEM focus, all CPS’ schools offer STEM learning, Easterly said, with resources and information available on the Department’s STEM website.
At the secondary level, schools offer a variety of science AP and dual credit/enrollment courses, as well as many social and competitive clubs that help students hone their STEM skills. The District is expanding current STEM-related pathways and piloting new ones, such as a cybersecurity pathway in collaboration with City Colleges of Chicago. Such pathways help students expand their knowledge and skills and get a head start on a career in high-wage, high-skill, in-demand professions.
“STEM is about problem-solving and innovation,” Easterly said. “Therefore, those who hold STEM jobs are the ones who determine the problems that are solved and the innovations that are produced. If we can collectively create environments that celebrate and promote learning in science, technology, engineering, and math, then more of our students might be encouraged to pursue a STEM career which will increase the chance that the voices and perspectives of our families and communities are present in the problems that are solved and innovations that will advance our nation.”