From Art to STEM - A Creative Journey of Discovery: A Transformational Project for Nashville Middle School Students
Tenth grade students in high schools in Nashville, Tennessee choose among four to seven career academies. Despite a needs analysis that demonstrates the several occupations in Nashville require a STEM background, the results of a survey show that most students are choosing arts and communications career academies rather than STEM-related ones. A comprehensive set of partners led by Alignment Nashville, an organization that works out of the mayor's office to connect community organizations to schools, provides an ITEST strategies project to increase interest in STEM-related careers especially for 200 eighth grade girls from underrepresented and disadvantaged populations and their teachers. Using their existing knowledge and interest, students increase their understanding of how their skills can be used in STEM-related careers by creating 3D computer models, using tools such as AutoCAD and Alice. Students can watch the construction of the model using the rapid prototyping facilities of Tennessee Technical University via Internet. A four week summer camp at Nashville State Community College, using the Ford PAS curriculum maintains the students' interest and prepares them for the career academy. The mathematics and science teachers of the targeted audience participate in professional development activities to increase their ability to 3D modeling and connect rapid prototyping to their content areas. Additionally, local college students serving as Girl Scout Leaders in underserved areas of Nashville work with students in the after school activities and summer camps and receive professional development. The evaluation identifies strategies and tactics that are effective in increasing the interest and understanding of the students and teachers in STEM-related careers.