On Thursday, Dec. 10, Yvonne Spicer of the National Center for Technological Literacy, which is part of the Museum of Science in Boston, visited Martha’s Vineyard Public Schools to speak with educators about developing a comprehensive K-12 STEM curriculum. All public schools were represented in the discussion and participants came from a wide range of departments including middle school science teachers, elementary teachers, high school science and technology teachers, and school and district level administrators.

Yvonne Spicer is an engaging and dynamic speaker who travels nationally and internationally in support of STEM education. She possesses expertise in technology and engineering education standards development, assessment, and strategic school leadership. In January 2010, she was appointed to the Massachusetts governor’s STEM advisory council as co-chairman of the council’s teacher development committee. She also served on the technology and engineering design team for the National Research Council Next Generation: Framework for Science Education, which was approved in 2011. Most recently, Ms. Spicer served on the technology and engineering steering committee for the frontrunner of the first national assessment for technology and engineering in the 2014 National Assessment of Educational Progress.

Most notably, Ms. Spicer’s organization created an initiative called the Gateway Project to assist school districts in developing a personalized plan to implement standards based technology and engineering curricula, assessments, projects and activities. The program supports educators with tools, resources, and support that lead to systemic changes in the way that STEM is taught at all grade levels. “No two districts are alike. They have varied resources, challenges, and strengths. For Gateway to be an effective and sustainable program, it has to be developed for the district, by the district, and have full buy-in by the community,” Ms. Spicer said. STEM education is the integration of science, technology, engineering and math. All these subjects are important, but teaching them in isolation does not provide opportunities for students to make necessary connections between them. Teaching multiple subjects in an integrated manner allows for students to become problem solvers who use their knowledge in different applications.

The Massachusetts Department of Education will decide in January 2016 if it will adopt the newest version of the science, technology and engineering standards. Those standards represent an increase in engineering and technology education at all grade levels 1-12. This requires the cultivation of expertise in engineering and technology curriculum for our younger children.

Public school staff have been working to create opportunities for students in science, technology, and engineering for many years. For example, the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School has created engineering challenges for students, and has focused work on a STEAM program (incorporating art into STEM). While we have appreciated the efforts of our staff to provide opportunities for our children and young adults, it is exciting to think that we can move beyond a collection of activities and strategies to an even greater opportunity to create a top-notch program that emphasizes a consistent awareness and incorporation of STEM. We have the talent necessary among our staff and students and the resources and support of our communities. If we can galvanize this potential, we can create a vision for a foundation that will allow for a sustainable and transforming STEM program for all of our children and young adults through all grade levels.

Richard Smith

Oak Bluffs

The writer is assistant superintendent for the Vineyard public schools.