Across the Boards – Winter 2019 Feature

Halton District School Board

Innovators, educators, industry leaders and community members work together on new I-STEM program at Aldershot High School

More than 70 innovators, educators, industry leaders and community members came together at a Think Tank event on April 19, 2018 to collaborate on what the future of the Innovation-STEM (I-STEM) program will look like at Aldershot High School in Burlington. The new program, beginning in September 2019 for Grade 9 students, will foster innovation and incorporate Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education. The space for the Think Tank event was donated by Mercedes-Benz Burlington.

The all-day collaborative session comes after Trustees of the Halton District School Board voted to implement I-STEM at the Board meeting on March 7, 2018.

The I-STEM program will equip students with global competencies, also known as transferable skills, such as critical thinking, problem solving, innovation, creativity, entrepreneurship, self-directed learning, collaboration, communication and citizenship. Project-based learning, design thinking, entrepreneurial thinking and experiential learning opportunities through community and post-secondary partnerships will be essential elements of the program to enhance learning opportunities for students.

In attendance at the I-STEM Think Tank event were representatives from McMaster University, Mohawk College, University of Guelph, Ontario Council for Technology Education, Aldershot Village BIA, Engineers of Tomorrow, Ridout & Maybee LLP, The Forge, InkSmith, Let’s Talk Science, Thames Valley District School Board, Sustainable Hamilton Burlington, Our Kids Network, McMaster Innovation Park, Halton Environmental Network, GPS Coordinating, Hewlett-Packard, Burlington Public Library, PHB Spark Consulting, The Centre for Skills Development & Training, parents, teachers and staff from Aldershot HS, recent HDSB graduates, Board staff, and more.

The day-long event encouraged brainstorming, collaboration and creativity in support of student learning.

Participants explored how the I-STEM program could be designed to:

  • Ensure students have multiple experiential learning opportunities
  • Foster partnerships between students, post-secondary institutes, government and local organizations
  • Provide increased exposure to STEM fields
  • Shift the focus in learning to skills and competencies, instead of credentials.

“We have a game-changing opportunity here,” said Bonnie Schmidt, President of Let’s Talk Science, a national organization involved with the Canada 2067 discussion on the future of STEM education to prepare students to “live, learn and contribute to their communities in the economies and societies of the future.”

With technological change, shifting demographics, and increased globalization being the key forces shaping the future of work, participants discussed how these factors can be considered when preparing students for their future.

“In a world of continual change with evolving science, technology and innovation, we have the opportunity to develop global citizens who contribute to solving complex economic, social and environmental problems,” said Terri Blackwell, Superintendent of Education for the Halton District School Board. “The Think Tank event provided an opportunity to build a vision for learning in the I-STEM program, share ideas for the future of learning, and build community and post-secondary partnerships.”

Next steps in the development of the I-STEM program will be to analyze the feedback and ideas generated at the event and establish a professional learning plan with staff.

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