Approach to STEM Education

Dearborn Students discuss designs for the new school with architect Jonathan Levi.

Science, technology, engineering, mathematics

  1. The STEM Approach
  2. Goals for Students
  3. Core Components

To maximize students’ choice and opportunity upon graduation and ensure that our graduates find their place in the evolving 21st-century landscape of college and career options, the Dearborn STEM Academy (DSA) takes a STEM approach to learning.

In addition to building STEM awareness and STEM literacies, the STEM approach we take also builds a certain type of learner ready to navigate across multiple fields of study and work.

The STEM Approach

A STEM approach grounds all learning experiences at DSA – across content areas and grade levels.  In content courses (STEM, Humanities and the Arts) and in out-of-school activities, students will experience learning that is:

Authentic/Based in the Real World:

Students will engage in tasks that are modeled after what professionals do in the field.

Rooted in Problems and Problem Solving:

Professionals in any field are presented with problems and tasks and are required to solve them as part of their work. Across contexts, DSA students identify problems, set goals, make plans and track progress toward goals. They have opportunities to take risks, try new things, make multiple attempts and reflect on their learning. They are critical and analytical thinkers.


In the 21st Century, professionals entering college and careers will be charged with fixing and improving many tools, ideas and solutions that have already been created or designed. The tasks and problems DSA students take on will be equally challenging. Curriculum and learning experiences will call for students to look at a problem from multiple perspectives, make multiple attempts, reflect, and refine their approaches.


In order to continuously learn from and with partners across fields and disciplines, students have to build the skills of collaboration and communication. Learning experiences at the DSA will call for intentional collaboration. This collaboration will allow students to build understanding about how a team works, how to clearly define roles across teams, and how each member can contribute – helping each student to also be able to build an understanding of their own strengths and areas for growth.

Intentionally and strategically integrated:

Curriculum and learning experiences are designed so that disciplines speak to each other in the same way they do in the professional world. Students understand how mathematics enhances scientific reports through use of statistics, how author’s craft and argument can increase the chances of proposed environmental policy passing through legislation, how foundations of physics influence mechanical engineering. Disciplines are not taught or experienced in isolation.

Respectful of the individual disciplines:

While integrated curriculum and learning experiences are key to demonstrate how professionals work and learn in the field, students will not be able to build deep conceptual understanding without deliberate instruction that builds knowledge and skill within each discipline, not just across.  A balance between integrated and disciplinary learning is essential for application and transfer of ideas.  STEM, the Arts, and the Humanities all have ideas, approaches, and skills unique to those disciplines and require time and attention for students to learn within each discipline so that students can learn across each discipline.  Learning experiences at the DSA will be Common Core-­‐ and Next Generation Science Standards-­‐aligned, ensuring that all of our students build a foundation in each of the disciplines and graduate with comprehensive knowledge and skills required to move ahead on a college and career trajectory.

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Goals for Students

STEM Literacies:

One goal is to build multiple literacies for our students that will help them navigate an increasingly scientific and technological world. In any college or career choice, our graduates will need a basic understanding of the STEM world, given that is the largest growing field. Every one of our students will leave with an understanding of the language, concepts and ideas that are pervasive across all STEM fields; allowing them to meaningfully engage in and collaborate with this world.

STEM Awareness:

Students will also leave with a robust awareness of the STEM world. They will be able to not just identify, but deeply understand the disciplines, jobs and career paths that exist within STEM. Additionally, they will become familiar with disciplines, jobs and career paths that exist OUTSIDE of STEM, but build awareness about how these roles outside of STEM interact within the world of STEM and what they will need to know/be able to do in order to partner with those in STEM.

Questions our students will be able to answer:

  • What are the fields/jobs that exist both in STEM and outside of STEM?
  • What do they build/create/know?
  • How do professionals within and across fields collaborate?
  • How do professionals learn and improve?
  • How do professionals in STEM work with and support their communities?

STEM Interest & Identity:

By building STEM literacies and awareness, we will work to help our students identify their STEM interests and identities.  They will investigate:

  • What ideas, questions, and disciplines most interest me?
  • Which match best with my skill set and expertise?
  • What role can I play within STEM, or, if planning to work outside of STEM, how do I want to collaborate with, contribute to, and learn from the STEM world?
  • How can I apply the STEM approach to learning to my chosen path/life?

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Core Components

Rigorous, MassCore STEM courses for all:

Four years of high school math for all students and three years of science for all students.

Computer Science courses for all students:

All DSA students will take computer science courses to gain a foundational knowledge of programming.

College and career exploration for all:

All DSA students will participate in an integrated set of college and career exposure experiences designed to build their knowledge of and access to a variety of post-­‐secondary STEM pathways.

Apprenticeships for all:

All DSA students will participate in STEM-­‐related apprenticeships intended to provide them with an introductory experience in the world of work.

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