OPS Continues Shift to STEM Focused Education
by James Harrington, OPS Supervisor of Math and Chris Schaben, OPS Supervisor of Science
With the revision of the Nebraska State Mathematics Standards in 2015 and continuing with the newly-adopted Nebraska State Science Standards, the Nebraska Department of Education (NDE) has acknowledged that several key shifts in public education are essential to provide students with the knowledge and skills that will prepare them for success in college, career and citizenship. The NDE includes these shifts in mathematics instruction: a focus on fewer concepts, the opportunity to understand mathematics through coherence, and having students experience rigorous mathematical content. In science, NDE points to instruction that allows students to apply science knowledge through three-dimensional learning; to connect ideas across science domains by explaining natural phenomena and designing solutions to real-world challenges; and to investigate, evaluate, and reason scientifically across disciplines.
STEM education is one key to bringing these shifts into everyday instruction in math and science classrooms. STEM is the acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. It has often been said that mathematics is the language of science, but it can also lay claim to being the language of technology and engineering, as well. Careers in the STEM areas are well-compensated, and employers, especially in the Omaha area, are constantly searching for well-qualified candidates to fill these positions.
OPS is very fortunate to have multiple community partners join us as we have maintained and updated our math and science curricula. Among other important roles, the community partners provide important input by attending formal curriculum alignment meetings and by participating in curriculum development. One such partner is the Omaha STEM Ecosystem. We look forward to the Omaha STEM Ecosystem’s work as there is a direct benefit to our students. Specifically, the work that the Ecosystem is involved with organizes multiple partners and stakeholder’s support of our schools. The Omaha STEM Ecosystem is led by the University of Nebraska Omaha and the Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium, and they have maintained a focus on K-12 education. Along with other area school districts, OPS has several educators involved in the Ecosystem, serving on the advisory board, leading and working on several sub-committees, and taking part in programming identified and coordinated by the Ecosystem.
As the school year progresses, the Omaha STEM Ecosystem will be use this space to inform readers about the work, and how our students can achieve success in STEM education.