STEM School Under Construction

New STEM School
Kevin Machak
03/28/14

A new, state-of-the-art school is under construction in Aurora that will provide hands-on learning for students interested in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM fields).

District 204, along with Aurora’s two school districts, are collaborating with aurora university to create the John C. Dunham STEM Partnership School, which is taking shape at Aurora University.

The idea for the STEM school came about in 2007 when local districts were taking a look at the education system of the country as a whole.

“What we were seeing was national scores of our students were flat-lining. We weren’t gaining, especially in areas of math and science. And we were also looking at international studies and our students were falling further behind their international counterparts, said Allison Sherman, the school’s director.

So the STEM school was created to bridge that gap, she told parents during a meeting at the District 204 Crouse Education Center.

The average class size at the school is 25, with 150 total students, including 50 each from East Aurora, West Aurora, and Indian Prairie District 204, all in third through eighth grade.

Applicants will be selected from a random lottery drawing. Beyond that others will be added to a waiting list.

“That leaves me kind of concerned I think because that means it’s hyper competitive. But other than that, if it works out for a parent, it’d be a great opportunity for learning and for growth.”

Collaboration with 25 different corporations, including Exelon and Nicor, have made that opportunity possible.

They’ve not only provided thousands of dollars to fund the school, but are also helping to design the curriculum so students’ education can be applied to life beyond the classroom.

“We have an aging workforce and we don’t have enough people coming into the workforce pipeline to work at Exelon at a ComEd,” said Steve Solomon, president of the Exelon Foundation.

“The STEM fields drive our nation’s innovation and competitiveness by generating new ideas, new industries, new companies even,” said Nicor Manager, Angela Woodfield.

The school’s impact stretches outside its walls.. The curriculum will be available to all public schools in the partnering districts and the teachers will come from those districts.

“They will come to the school on a two or four year appointment and then return back to their school district, so as to be a leader in stem and build capacity across the district,” said Sherman.

For the students that will attend, they’ll be given a $1,000 scholarship to study at Aurora University once they graduate high school.

Overall, the plans seemed to peak parents’ interest.

“There have always been jobs out there in science and engineering, but it has not been brought out in the open and has not been encouraged at the grade school and middle school. So I think this is encouraging,” said District 204 parent Roger Chawla.

Construction will be finished and the doors to the STEM school will open in august. The deadline to apply is April 14th. For more information on the school, including how to enroll, visit www.stem.aurora.edu.

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