Highland Park Makes Every Class a STEAM Class

Highland Park ISD incorporates STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math) in all classes.

The district has expanded its STEAM-related curriculum in recent years thanks to a five-year, $5.8 million grant from the Moody Foundation. HPISD’s STEAM initiative began about three years ago, with 26 pilot teachers creating lessons across campuses and grade levels.

“We have been very pleased with the early impact of our STEAM program on students and teachers across the district,” said Geoffrey Orsak, executive director of the Moody Innovation Institute.

STEAM jobs are expected to account for 60 percent of new jobs created in the U.S. this century with jobs requiring advanced STEAM education expected to grow by as much as 45 percent in the same time frame, according to HPISD’s website.

“We want to show students the career options that are out there,” Orsak said.

STEAM coaches Ashley Jones and Ericca Vandagriff work with teachers across the district to incorporate STEAM concepts and activities into lessons, even in classes people may not expect, like foreign language classes. For example, Orsak said they’ve included lessons about disaster response in France in French courses.

Jones has worked for more than 12 years in education in various positions in Garland ISD, Richardson ISD, and Georgetown ISD before joining HPISD as a STEAM coach. Vandagriff has worked in HPISD for more than 12 years and taught fifth-grade science at McCulloch Intermediate before becoming a STEAM coach.

Jones said projects they’ve worked on recently include building a life-sized gingerbread house for the holidays.

One of the projects Vandagriff is most proud of is McCulloch fifth-graders’ winning best overall exhibit at the Earthx2019 Expo for their project that showed how plastics get into watersheds and oceans and the impact that has on ecosystems.

Rachel Snyder

Rachel Snyder, deputy editor at People Newspapers, joined the staff in 2019, returning to her native Dallas-Fort Worth after starting her career at community newspapers in Oklahoma. One of her stories won first place in its category in the Oklahoma Press Association’s Better Newspaper Contest in 2018. She’s a fan of puns and community journalism, not necessarily in that order. You can reach her at rachel.snyder@peoplenewspapers.com

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