Published in the June 8 – 21, 2016 issue of Morgan Hill Life

By Chris Moore

Chris Moore

Chris Moore

Britton Middle School was proud to learn in April that we had been selected for the 2016-2019 Tech Academies of Innovation. The Tech Academies of Innovation is an arm of Silicon Valley’s Tech Museum of Innovation and is a partnership with schools in underserved communities to build model programs for teaching STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math).

This amazing partnership will allow the Tech to support the Morgan Hill Unified School District in building interest in engineering and science and encourage our students to consider careers in technology. Last year, P.A. Walsh STEAM Academy was also awarded a three-year partnership with the Tech. Now with Britton’s involvement, it creates a solid bridge to continue students along the path to science literacy and engineering skills from elementary to middle school.

The Tech has partnerships with about a dozen schools in Santa Clara County to provide STEM grant programs for teachers and students. When we heard the San Jose-based museum was looking for more schools in the South Valley region, we immediately began the application process.
We brought together an experienced team of teachers who were interested in being the founding staff members if we received the grant. They are Jim Levis, science department chair and co-advisor for Britton’s MESA club, Patty Fink, math department chair and advisor for the coding club, Heather Wygant, science TOSA and seventh-grade science teacher, and Jewell Knofler, an incoming sixth-grade teacher who will teach math and science.

After clearing the first application hurdle, representatives from the Tech visited Britton in March to conduct extensive interviews with the teachers and myself to learn more about our team and evaluate whether we were a good fit for their program before announcing our school as a partner.

The partnership is a three-year commitment through the Tech Museum. The first year will have the foundation team participate in a number of training sessions and workshops to discover ways to incorporate STEM lessons into their classrooms, as well as STEM instruction into our math and science and robotics clubs. Computer coding is big on Britton’s campus and we expect to have the opportunity to add a software engineering component in the near future. We will also have teams of students working together at Britton to participate in the prestigious Tech Challenge county-wide science competition next year.

The second year will continue the partnership with the Tech Museum with our team leaders bringing STEM lesson into other classes, such as English and history. The third year we will be a model for the county in supporting a network for first and second year schools that are also partnering with the Tech in its Academies of Innovation program. During this period, STEM will be involved in all curriculum levels — not just math and science and MESA but campus-wide by writing about science or learning the history of technology.

After working in Cupertino high schools for the past 12 years, I recognize the impact that STEM can have on a campus in inspiring our next generation of innovators and engineers. As the home of Apple, Cupertino continues the legacy of Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak who met at Homestead High School in the late 1960s. Despite attending high school decades ago, I’ve seen Cupertino schools continue to focus on what these two men have done for the world of technology.

In fact, Wozniak understood the connection with introducing students early to the wonders of STEM and has contributed significantly with donations to his alma mater. If you want to inspire the next generation of engineers or scientists or doctors or other science-based professions, you have to give students the opportunities at an early age, he realized.

Coming from that environment has led me to more fully understand and see first hand the importance of early STEM education. That’s why bringing STEM to our kids here at Britton through this partnership with the Tech Museum is so important. Our students here in Morgan Hill are just as capable, just as bright and just as innovative as the kids in the northern part of the county. We want to give students here in South County opportunities that are equal to, if not better to, what schools are doing in other parts of the Silicon Valley. I believe with this new partnership with the Tech, we can do just that.

Chris Moore is the principal of Britton Middle School. He wrote this column for Morgan Hill Life.