A step-by-step guide to bringing a comprehensive STEM program to the schools in your district
Research has consistently shown the positive impact of STEM education on students’ test scores, academic achievement, and post-graduate success. A 2021 meta-analysis study on the effects of STEM education on academic performance defined the academic success of students with access to STEM education as statistically higher than those without access to STEM education.
As the world outside of education continues to advance technologically, early access to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics is more important than ever before. However, many district administrators face financial, administrative, or implementation challenges to bring a robust and comprehensive solution to their schools.
We’re here to help. In this article, we’ll cover:
- The benefits of a district-wide STEM program for both students and teachers
- A step-by-step guide on how to bring a STEM program to your school district
- Financial resources to assist with funding a new STEM program
- How Kid Spark Education can provide an all-in-one solution to your district’s STEM needs
The Benefits of a District-Wide STEM Program
It’s not only the students in your school district who benefit from a comprehensive STEM program. Educators are also relieved from individual lesson planning, budgeting and providing tools and resources, and keeping their STEM knowledge up to date through professional development. Here are just some of the ways your students and teachers will benefit from a district-wide STEM education program.
How a Comprehensive STEM Program Benefits Students
- Improved Student Achievement
A coordinated and well-supported district STEM program can raise student proficiency and interest in STEM subjects in every school.
In 2022, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) reported the largest score drops in reading and mathematics since 1990. The educational disruption of the COVID-19 pandemic still lingers in many classrooms today, and it requires a proactive approach to counter these challenges. (Learn how Kid Spark Education helps declining elementary math scores on our blog.)
STEM education has been proven to improve student performance not only in STEM subjects but across all disciplines as it fosters skills such as problem-solving, critical thinking, and reasoning. When you incorporate a district-wide STEM program, student achievement will be the first to benefit.
- More STEM Opportunities
From coding clubs to robotics teams, school districts with a comprehensive STEM program tend to have more opportunities for STEM enrichment.
As teachers grow their own STEM skills through professional development, there are more STEM mentors to lead more advanced STEM enrichment programs outside of school hours. A comprehensive STEM curriculum also provides students with a common foundation of core concepts so students can easily collaborate with pupils from other schools.
These opportunities encourage and support students with an interest in STEM to develop their own skills and curiosities further.
- Staying at the Learning Edge
The learning edge is a place within our learning comfort zone with just enough of a challenge to be exciting and fun without posing too large a challenge to be discouraging.
This learning edge is an important factor in students’ success in STEM subjects. As young as elementary school, students are already forming opinions about their abilities, and their early interactions with STEM can influence the rest of their educational careers. To keep students engaged and motivated without provoking additional stress, maintaining the learning edge for all students is vital.
Beyond elementary STEM, middle school students also face the risk of becoming bored or discouraged when they are disconnected from their learning edge. Without a district-wide program, students often receive irregular STEM instruction from educators with varying degrees of their own STEM fluency. These variances can deter students from studying STEM subjects if their encounters are too challenging or boring.
A comprehensive STEM program battles this deterrence by providing sequential instruction across all grade levels so that students receive consistent and effective instruction that keeps them at their learning edge.
When the STEM curriculum encompasses multiple grade levels through a single educational approach, students build familiarity and, in turn, confidence in STEM subjects. With a high-quality, research-backed curriculum, your students will continue to be challenged in new ways while building their confidence and skills in previous concepts.
- An Enriched STEM Community
When a STEM program is implemented across the entire school district, it is common for the local community also to get involved through district-level partnerships with businesses, universities, organizations, and STEM professionals. This rich and diverse community helps foster a positive STEM ecosystem where students are supported in their STEM education outside of the classroom.
This includes opportunities like community STEM programs, museum and library programs, STEM mentorship, and more.
How a District-Wide STEM Program Benefits Teachers
- Increased Resources and Support
A coordinated district STEM program provides teachers with more materials and administrative support for STEM initiatives. Instead of spending their time and resources developing STEM lesson plans on their own, your teachers are equipped with the tools they need for effective STEM instruction and can dedicate their energy and resources to teaching rather than planning.
- Expanded Professional Development
Educators can take advantage of STEM-specific training, workshops, and conferences funded and organized at the district level when there is a district-wide STEM program in place.
In STEM programs like Kid Spark Educations, professional development resources are included with the curriculum so that all teachers receive training for the district’s STEM success.
- Increased Teacher Collaboration
Teachers have more opportunities to work with their peers across schools on STEM projects, share best practices, and learn from each other when they share the same STEM curriculum district-wide. This increased teacher collaboration benefits both the STEM program as a whole and the students within it.
How to Bring a STEM Program to Your School District (Step-by-Step)
Now that we’ve outlined the benefits a comprehensive STEM program can bring to your students and teachers, let’s take a step-by-step approach to securing a STEM curriculum for your school district.
1. Assess Your District’s Needs
Firstly, you want to know exactly what the schools within your district need so you can create a comprehensive plan to bring in a new STEM program.
Determine what kind of STEM programming is most needed or desired at your schools by surveying teachers, parents, and students. Analyze each school’s performance data to identify areas for improvement and create a baseline to measure against once your new program is implemented.
2. Form a STEM Action Team
Collaborate with school administrators, teachers, curriculum directors, parents, and community members to build a robust STEM ecosystem for your students to thrive. Together, you can determine the new STEM program’s goals, curriculum requirements, the timeline, and the associated costs.
Having a full STEM team to help bring a new STEM program to the school district also helps secure additional funding, if needed, and further expands the STEM ecosystem by reaching out to the networks of each team member.
3. Choose a STEM curriculum
Now the fun part! Start shopping for the STEM curriculum that meets your standards, goals, and budget. This might involve evaluating various STEM curriculum programs to find the right fit for your schools.
Lean on your STEM Action Team to provide valuable feedback as to which program is best for both students and teachers.
The Kid Spark STEM Program (Pre-K–8th Grade)
Kid Spark Education’s STEM curriculum is research-backed and developed with both students and educators in mind.
What it is: A comprehensive STEM program for grades Pre-K through 8th grade that builds foundation STEM skills and core fluencies in the STEM subjects. Through convergent and divergent learning activities, students build on their cumulative knowledge through each grade level.
What You Get:
- A comprehensive STEM curriculum aligned with current standards
- Reusable engineering and robotics materials
- Professional learning resources for teachers
Why It Works: The Kid Spark STEM curriculum is easy to implement with its adaptive programs and educator resources. Empowered educators empower students. Once your teachers are familiar with the curriculum, they can become confident STEM mentors to lead your students to academic and STEM success.
4. Budget and Secure Funding
Once you’ve selected a STEM program, determine your costs for training, materials, equipment, and other program needs.
Budget what you can from the district, then lean into additional funding options such as grants, community partnerships, and fundraising. (More information on additional funding for your STEM program can be found later in this article.)
5. Purchase Equipment and Supplies
Procure any materials and curriculum tools necessary for your new STEM program. This might include textbooks, lesson planning materials, handouts, STEM equipment, educator training, and so much more.
Or, if you purchase Kid Spark Education’s STEM lab kits for your school district, you’ll find everything you need in one place. All the components for hands-on activities are included and are reusable for multiple lesson plans across various units of instruction.
6. Train Teachers
Identify the teachers who require professional development and training under the new STEM program and provide training opportunities for them to familiarize themselves with the curriculum.
Many of these STEM trainings involve the teachers actually doing the experiments and activities themselves so that they know what it’s like to be the student. With a district-wide solution, these trainings are more cost-effective.
7. Build a STEM ecosystem
With the new STEM program in effect in your school district, get community partners involved for volunteer, mentorship, and internship opportunities. Connect with local businesses, colleges, science museums, libraries, and community organizations to find possible collaborations that build a solid STEM ecosystem around your students district-wide.
You might consider a district-wide science fair, seasonal STEM challenges and competitions, STEM workshops, or afterschool STEM programs.
8. Launch STEM Program and Assess Your Progress
Once your new STEM program is officially launched, schedule regular intervals to get feedback from teachers, students, and administrators, and assess the progress you’ve made toward your initial objectives.
The world of STEM is dynamic and changing every day. Be sure to create a way to regularly evaluate the impact of your program on student learning and engagement to best prepare your students for the road ahead.
How to Fund a STEM Program for Your School District
Now that the benefits of a comprehensive STEM program in your school district are clear, and you have a plan of action, let’s explore some resources to help your school district fund a new STEM program.
For public elementary, preschool, and head start programs that serve Title 1 students in the U.S., Kid Spark has a grants program you may be eligible to apply to. See more details on our website.
- Federal, State, and Private Grants
Look for federal, state, and private foundation grants available for educational initiatives in your area. These can often be used to purchase curriculum materials and bridge the gap in your budget to launch a complete STEM program across all schools in your district.
Activate your STEM Action Team and look for partnership opportunities within your own community. Local universities, community organizations, and educational organizations may be willing to contribute to the success of students in their community.
You may also be able to find local businesses interested in corporate sponsorships that fund educational programs in exchange for publicity or recognition.
Reallocating funds in your budget to fuel a new STEM program launch may be worth it rather than a slow fiscal roll out.
However, if you are looking to just get started with some kind of STEM program (without a district-wide implementation budget), consider investing in a STEM enrichment program.
How Kid Spark Education Works with School Districts
Kid Spark Education simplifies the 8-step process of launching a new STEM program in your school district, and provides an all-in-one solution that aligns with Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) for elementary and middle school while including all the curriculum resources, engineering and robotics components, and professional development for your educators.
Our research-backed STEM curriculum and lab kits can be used and reused year after year, even as we update our professional learning tools online. This gives your school district lasting value while keeping your educators ahead.
How Kid Spark Education Simplifies the Process of Bringing a STEM Program to Your District
- Comprehensive Curriculum
Your district will benefit from a single standardized STEM curriculum and aligned professional development program for teachers that is far simpler and more affordable than individual teachers and schools purchasing various curricula and training for disjointed materials.
Kid Spark Education’s STEM Labs include grades Pre-K through 8th grade so students receive a robust STEM curriculum.
- Reusable Equipment and Resources
Kid Spark lab kits use reusable engineering materials and components for multiple lessons and units of instruction. The same lab kit can be used for multiple grade levels, for multiple lessons, and for several years.
- Ongoing Professional Development
The Educator Resources on the Kid Spark website provide valuable training for teachers. These resources are designed to support educators so they feel confident in their instruction and the STEM concepts they’re covering.
Connect with Kid Spark Education Today
Interested in learning more about Kid Spark Education’s comprehensive district solutions for STEM education? Plan your program today.