New Emerson’s focus: technology, math and science

This year, New Emerson will become the first school in School District 51 to place a special emphasis on science, technology, engineering and math instruction.

While all schools have instruction in these areas, Superintendent Steve Schultz said District 51 will experiment this year with the concept of having one school, New Emerson, that can offer more to students specifically interested in these subjects.

“What we’re trying to do is increase best practices and high expectations for science, technology and engineering at all schools. This is a beginning place,” Schultz said. “New Emerson is where students can go if they have a specific interest, but it will be emphasized at all schools.”

Schultz said having a school where science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) are more prevalently worked into all learning is one step toward helping local students become prepared for a work force where technology changes daily and science and math-based careers are increasing. Eventually, Schultz said, he would like to see a STEM-based middle school and high school in the district.

“Our kids need it if they’re going to compete,” Schultz said.

New Emerson was selected for a pilot STEM program because it’s a choice school, meaning students from across the Grand Valley can enroll there. New Emerson also is familiar with emphasizing a subject, considering it began as a literacy-focused school.

It was also chosen because it shares a building with the John McConnell Math and Science Center of Western Colorado.

The school district already sends numerous schoolchildren on field trips to the center, and teachers borrow kits from the center that contain science lessons and all the materials needed to demonstrate the lesson to students. Each kit lesson includes a hands-on experiment for students to learn a scientific concept, from chemistry to force in motion. After teachers use the kits, they are returned to the center and restocked with replacement materials for the next group of students.

The relationship between the center and the district will expand in conjunction with the change at New Emerson, according to Math and Science Center Director Teresa Coons.

The kits will expand from teaching a half-dozen lessons to many more, she said. Each lesson will follow new state curriculum standards for science and will be tested at New Emerson before eventually spreading to other elementary schools.

Five mechanical-engineering students who attend Mesa State College through the college’s partnership with the University of Colorado at Boulder have work-study through CU at the Math and Science Center. The students will help put the new kits together and bring them to schools and work with teachers to understand how to use the kits.


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