Fond du Lac School District, Fond du Lac, Wisconsin
Challenge: The Fond du Lac School District did not have any schools dedicated to encouraging girls to explore careers in STEM-related fields.
Initiative: The Fond du Lac STEM Academy and STEM Institute have come about thanks to community partnerships, particularly with Mercury Marine, an international corporation headquartered in the community. The STEM Academy (grades 3 through 5) opened in 2012, while the STEM Institute (grades 6 through 8) launched the year after. Both nonprofit charter schools employ project-based learning. Students also participate in events such as design challenges, where they develop solutions to community problems that have been submitted by business partners.
Impact: Since inception, both the academy and institute have exceeded expectations or significantly exceeded expectations on Wisconsin school report cards. Driven by student interest, the program is expanding to the high school. “That demand outlines the interest and excitement that exists in our community and surrounding communities for a project-based learning experience,” says Superintendent James Sebert.
Advice: Open yourself to the community and release control of the traditional model of school. Professional development focused on project-based learning is necessary if teachers are not already familiar with that instruction style.