STEM gap

This tech academy is using project-based learning to close the STEM gap

The Chicago Tech Academy has partnered with industry mentors to help students develop real-world skills

Across the country, more and more schools are implementing project-based learning and forging partnerships with businesses to help students build real-world skills to succeed in college and the workforce.

Take Chicago’s Chicago Tech Academy High School for example. While ChiTech, as the school is known, aims to help students become leaders, it also seeks to increase the number of minority and low-income students pursuing STEM in college and the workforce.

Since 2009, the school’s graduation and college enrollment rates have steadily increased. School leaders focus on closing the technology gender gap by teaching female students to code and build websites and apps.

Some of ChiTech’s success lies in its partnership with the local tech industry. Professionals mentor students and guide them as they innovate, develop entrepreneurial skills and real-world experience.

“Part of our curriculum design is project-based learning. We try to design our curriculum around how the real world functions,” said Linnea Garrett, ChiTech school director. “We really believe we can ground meaning behind the curriculum when there are real-world applications. Not only are science classes investigating questions and finding solutions, you’ll also encounter that in your English, fine arts and social studies classes. We try to guide students through interdisciplinary work.”

Next page: How industry partnerships target the STEM gap

Laura Ascione
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