During an STEAM Academy engineering class in 2020, Marble Falls High School student Gabriel Perez experimented while designing a concrete canoe. Marble Falls Independent School District is considering new engineering courses at the high school. File photo
The engineering classes would be part of the district’s STEAM Academy. STEAM stands for science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics. Founded in 2018, the STEAM Academy provides students with hands-on learning opportunities to challenge them to think critically and find creative solutions for real-world problems.
Since its inception, the academy has operated under two separate curriculums at two campuses, using Project Lead The Way at the middle school and Systems Go at the high school.
One objective for MFISD leaders for the growing academy is to find new ways to consolidate and streamline instruction. To accomplish this, the district plans to ditch Systems Go and double down on Project Lead The Way.
Director of Secondary Education Heather Metzgar said the switch makes sense.
“It provides a seamless transition when (students) go from seventh and eighth grade into high school,” she said. “It is also more cost-effective for us to go through Project Lead the Way.”
Currently, high school students spend a few years learning the basics of engineering design. With the proposed transition to a new curriculum, students would focus on the design process for one year before taking a certification test on AutoCAD, a computer software commonly used by engineers to design projects.
“Instead of spreading it over three years, students will focus hard on (design) their sophomore year and get to take their certification test as a 10th-grader,” Metzgar said.
Along with preparing students for the job market, these certifications boost the district’s accountability score, a rating generated each year by the Texas Education Agency, which monitors the courses and resources offered by public schools across the state.
“The more of those certifications that we can do and that our students are successful with, the better it is for everyone involved,” Metzgar said. “It helps our kids and it helps our accountability score. Hopefully, it also helps those businesses and industries locally to really prepare kids for skills they need in the workforce.”
The switch also would free up space for a new course. Marble Falls High School engineering teacher Lindsey Todesco held a vote among her students to decide between aerospace engineering and civil engineering. Aerospace won in a close election, but the other also could be added in the future.
“I told (Todesco), if we grow, we’ll add civil engineering,” Metzgar said. “Right now, she can’t do them all.”
SPECIAL EDUCATION COURSES
Also included in Metzgar’s innovative programs presentation to the school board were four classes for autistic children in the district’s special education program, primarily focused on teaching communication skills.
“It helps (students with autism) and works with them on social skills so they’re more prepared for all things in life whenever they graduate from us,” she said.
The new courses are set to be approved at the board’s next regular meeting, which is 6 p.m. Monday, Nov. 14, in the MFISD Central Community Room, 1800 Colt Drive in Marble Falls.