Bolstering the Student/Teacher Experience with a New Approach to Education
Riverside STEM Academy (RSA) is a Riverside Unified School with a focus on Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM). Beginning as a special track at Central Middle School in 2011 with 200 students, the STEM Academy now has a campus of its own in the City of Riverside and continues to grow each year. Today, the STEM Academy has 525 students in its expanded facility. Enrollment begins with fifth grade and now accommodates high school students. The STEM Academy will have its first graduating class in 2017.
With a different approach to education, the STEM Academy rotates through three academic blocks of about eighty-five minutes each day integrating Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. In addition to the STEM courses, the academy also offers physical education, music, arts, humanities courses and has guest speakers once a week. Engaging speakers take learning beyond concept mastery to help students develop a deep understanding of the STEM higher education majors. Guest speakers motivate students and provide insight regarding the career pathways and opportunities that STEM majors can present.
Embracing technology in a healthy learning environment, the STEM Academy encourages students to bring their own electronic devices to integrate the learning experience with hands-on instruction. Students use technology daily at school and at home as a tool to work collaboratively, communicate with teachers and to access, research, create, and turn in documents and products including PowerPoints, movies, and essays through the use of Haiku, Aeries and Google websites. Emphasis on research and product-based learning provides a different venue in which students can demonstrate what they understand.
Community partnerships are an extremely important component of their vision. For example, the STEM Academy has developed close ties with UC Riverside, visiting the campus regularly for field trips and events throughout the school year. Undergraduates from UC Riverside also visit the STEM Academy’s students to teach computer coding. Although the STEM Academy is growing, there is still a waiting list for new students. New students are accepted by a lottery system.
In addition to the Riverside STEM Academy, Riverside Unified School District offers a wide variety of on campus academies and programs to accommodate students with special interests. These academies include: Arlington Media Arts Academy, King Engineering, Poly Hospitality, Poly Web Design and Video, Ramona Health and BioScience Academy, North Global Business and Information Technology Academy (GBIT), North Law Enforcement and Protective Services Academy and North Education and Human Services Academy.