Is STEM the new CTE?

March 22nd, 2011

Category: News

Hello! I’m Christy Vanderwende and a former Career & Technical Education (CTE) teacher in Delaware. My education experience and certification is focused in agriculture and science; I’ve developed curriculum and taught classes in animal, environmental, and food sciences.

As a new member of the Rodel team, I was eager to return to the classroom on a site visit to George W. Carver High School of Engineering & Science (HSES) in Philadelphia this month to observe a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) focused school. I was amazed at the high level of learning in which students were being engaged, and it was interesting to reflect on how many aspects of STEM are reminiscent to the Delaware agriscience curriculum. For example, the hands-on science labs displayed through science fair projects, and the formation of an advisory council to provide direction for their new engineering academy.

Hands-on activities are exactly what have drawn students to CTE pathways for years in subjects such as agriculture, automotive technologies, and electrical engineering—all science and technology focused pathways. The similarity in curriculum was so strikingly similar that another teacher on the visit took the words out my mouth when he asked a HSES engineering teacher if he thought STEM could possibly replace CTE down the road. Are they already converging? Currently, students in theSTEM Learning Center at P.S. du Pont Middle School are tackling the challenges facing sustainable agriculture by developing their own biodynamic food system experiment within a life sciences unit. This approach is combining curriculum in science, agriculture, engineering and careers to solve real world problems.

CTE has a long history in this country and receives significant federal funds through the Carl D. Perkins Vocational and Technical Education Act. But the Perkins program is only authorized through FY2012. If STEM and CTE converge, what will this mean for funding sources, career pathways, and curriculum?

I had to smile when I read a poster on a wall detailing the history of Mr. Carver, who was known as one the greatest scientists of the 20th century and also a well known inventor and chemist in no other field but…agriculture. It seems the CTE field may have already found its next generation.

Christy Vanderwende



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