Originally Posted by Geofizz
Our STEM high school is opening 6-8 next year!
I'm going Monday to follow my own advice above. Oaksie, anything you recommend I look for or ask?
That's great that you are having another option to explore!
As for recommendations, the big one I wished I had doggedly investigated was the science component. I was surprised that DD's STEM MS didn't offer a full compliment of Honors classes (especially where 1/2 the student population open enrolled, and where 40% of students are designated as gifted). When I stated my concern about having heterogeneous science classes (without clustering even) to the principal, I now know I was getting fed a line about teachers being able to differentiate for every student (nope, certainly not with her 7th grade science teacher, and not without some sort of clustering - her teacher had kids with IEP's for LD all the way up to my DD - HG. It surely didn't help that she had very rigid, non-interactive lessons either).
How hands on/interactive are the lessons/curriculum? Do the students spend a lot of time listening to "lectures" vs. spending time with hands on experiments/projects?
What does the T & E portion of STEM look like, meaning what technology and engineering classes are offered? At my DD's school they offer a minimum of 4 classes - 2 engineering, 1 tech yes class (incorporating technology in the classroom/education, essentially becoming a tech evangelist, and 1 tech lab class - exploring various technology avenues - lasers, robots, architecture, etc.)
Also apply this question to the M portion as well!
How does the school as a whole make sure what they learn in one STEM area connects to the others? For example at DD's school, most of the kids in 8th grade are taking pre-algebra or algebra (and a some take Honors Geometry), and physics is a unit they go over in 8th grade science. So the 8th graders took a field trip to a local amusement park to see physics (and math) in action (ahem - roller coaster!), therefore combining the two areas (as well as having fun! DD is sad she missed it this year, and won't be doing next year).
What is the profile of the kind/type of student do they expect to attract? Meaning, what do they think the typical student will be like - interests, aptitude, etc. Also, is the school first come, first served? Or is there an process for applying to attend? I'm guessing that a specialty STEM MS will attract a lot of advanced/gifted students, but not necessarily?
How flexible/accommodating are they for advanced/gifted students? Are there official policies in place, or is it determined by the particular circumstance of the student? Do they think outside the box for solutions to unique situations/students? I know the first question is an obvious one that you will ask, even without me mentioning it. I put it here because I know I have tended to be too laid back in advocating for DD "soon enough", trying to be a team player to preserve a positive relationship with the school. Now I know that I can be more assertive, sooner, and still preserve that relationship. Lesson learned, and hopefully, lesson to be replicated as necessary!
What else besides a core of STEM classes do they offer? I have loved that while being labeled a STEM MS, DD's school offers a full compliment of the arts - art, drama, dance, choir, band and piano. While my DD is very STEM focused, she also loves to be involved in the arts - she took piano first semester, and is now taking art. Taking these classes is a stress reducing outlet for her. And I feel it helps her to be a more well rounded person.
I hope this long winded reply has been helpful; I wish I had asked some of these right from the start. Good luck tomorrow; I hope you get the answers you are looking for! Let us know what you find out!