Region 16 lays out STEM paths

PROSPECT — Woodland Regional High School students interested in pursuing careers in STEM fields will soon have paths to guide them on their way.

Starting next school year, Woodland will implement two STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) learning pathways. The pathways, which will be available to students beginning with members of the graduating class of 2021, lay out specific STEM-related courses for students to take that are designed to give them an advantage when they graduate, whether they are entering the workforce or continuing their education.

Students who successfully complete the requirements will earn a “diploma of distinction” from Woodland.

“Over the past several years, we have seen an increase in the number of students who are interested in pursuing a career in the fields of engineering, computer science and manufacturing, and we see a need for these skills in today’s workforce,” Woodland Principal Kurt Ogren said. “By offering these pathways, more students will have the opportunity to have a leg up on their competition as they will be better prepared for the rigors of this field in college or as a career.”

There will be two similar but distinct pathways. The computer science and engineering learning pathway is designed for students interested in aspects of STEM such as coding. The construction, manufacturing and technology learning pathway is for those students who are more interested in the building aspect.

Students who choose one of the pathways will still be required to take all their core classes. The requirements to complete the pathways are in addition to and inclusive of the school’s overall graduation requirements.

To complete the computer science and engineering learning pathway a student must earn the following minimum credits: two credits of computer science; four credits of mathematics; four credits of science with at least one credit in physics; half a credit of engineering.

To complete the construction manufacturing and technology learning pathway a student must earn the following minimum credits: half a credit of engineering; one credit of manufacturing; one credit in construction, power, propulsion and energy systems, and architectural design; three credits of mathematics, including algebra II; three credits of science; half a credit of introduction to computer science.

Michele Raynor, director of curriculum, instruction and assessment for Region 16, said officials also see the two paths crossing over with students working together in courses like robotics.

The pathways are a first for Woodland. One of the reasons officials choose STEM pathways, Raynor said, is because there are jobs available in STEM careers around the state.

“It’s not that there aren’t jobs. They just don’t have the people with the skills to fill these jobs,” she said.

The pathways come after Region 16, which is comprised of Beacon Falls and Prospect, created a STEM course as part of the unified arts offering for seventh- and eighth-graders at Long River Middle School.

Raynor said the pathways will provide students introduced to STEM at the middle school the next step to take at the high school.

“I’m excited that we’re able to provide these opportunities for kids,” she said. “I think it fills a niche that we have and it addresses a need in the state.”

Superintendent of Schools Michael Yamin estimated that starting the pathways will cost between $7,000 and $10,000 for materials, then a few thousand dollars a year for items like software licenses.

“It won’t be significant but there will be ancillary expenses,” he said.

While the STEM pathways are the first at Woodland, they might not be the last.

Raynor said officials are also exploring an allied health pathway for students interested in pursuing a nursing career.

Overall, officials said, the pathways are about giving students more opportunities.

“We have to open up opportunities for our kids to be engaged and to be productive,” Yamin said.