NEWBURYPORT — In the rapidly changing fields of science, technology, engineering and math — or STEM, as those fields are commonly referred — lies the key to a prosperous future. That's what a growing number of political and industry leaders believe, and they're telling today's educators, in hopes of pushing more students into those fields and ensuring the big ideas and discoveries of the future are made in America.
On board with that goal is Superintendent Marc Kerble, who announced last week plans to put together a STEM ad hoc committee to look at designing high school courses around the initiative, and pushing more local kids into what's known as the "Stem Pipeline."
"The state of Massachusetts would like to see more male and female students in the state enter the STEM field," said Kerble, who is working with NHS Principal Mike Parent and Assistant Superintendent Angela Bik on the initiative.
"What we're hoping for is to bring people at the high school — teachers and members of the community — to come together and talk about STEM, and really talk about what we're doing at the high school, possibly looking at courses and programs and internships that may be useful to students."
Kerble is hoping to sway an ad hoc committee on the benefits of doing something similar to what his former Winchester School District was undertaking as he was making the transition to Newburyport.
"I'm hoping this ad hoc committee makes a recommendation I support right now, which is to develop a STEM certificate for our students in Newburyport," said Kerble. "It will mean students have taken so many courses and have worked on independent projects and have done an internship and maybe met other criteria so they can earn the certificate and use it as a way to help them enter college."
Kerble said he plans to use the ad hoc committee as a way to flesh out with industry leaders and professionals what such a program would look like and make necessary tweaks to current course offerings to make it happen. Taking a more modern look at the applications of STEM in real-world industry will be crucial to designing a valuable program, which means students would probably have to incorporate some type of visual arts study in order to receive a certificate.
"I think that industry is recognizing that students may be strong in science and math, but the visual arts has an impact on the way students look at solving problems," he said.
Kerble said last week he's already received commitments from several community members and business leaders with backgrounds in the field. He's looking for more, however, and invites anyone with an interest in serving on the short-term committee to contact his office.
What the group will be looking to examine is not just what types of coursework are most important for the future, but how the fields of science, technology, engineering, math and the arts could be integrated into a single course, perhaps.
"We don't integrate math, engineering, science and tech together. It's really complicated, so what would that look like if we did it?" said Kerble.
"What STEM means to me is the future. It's a vision for the future. I've talked to kids who are creative — they're thinkers and the world is wide open to them. Everything changes so quickly and these kids are able to adapt, so why not give them the opportunity?
Students, staff and community members interested in taking part in the STEM ad hoc committee are encouraged to email firstname.lastname@example.org. Meeting dates are Tuesday, March 6, from 7 to 8 p.m.; Tuesday, March 13, from 6:30 to 8 p.m., and Tuesday, March 20, from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Meetings will take place in room 118 at Newburyport High School.