Editor's Note: Today's guest blogger is Jim Brazell, a technology forecaster, author, public speaker, and consultant. It is the third in a five-part series on the convergence of STEM education and the Arts (TEAMS).
In the sleepy hills of Glendale California, near the LA Zoo, is a pioneering high school challenging everything we know and accept about the American high school experience. The school is Clark Magnet School, home of the Panthers. Clark's next goal is to be the first high school to launch a functioning satellite into orbit. The school's aspiration is to participate in the U.S. Air Force Academy's initiative to enable students to "learn space by doing space."
At Clark, robots dive to get underwater samples of pollution and as a result have changed the way Homeland Security and other law enforcement agencies train underwater divers in Los Angeles. Students make movies, build robots, conduct chemistry experiments and do all of the things anyone would expect in a STEM Magnet School -- with one exception -- the emphasis on STEM is met with equal emphasis on the arts, careers and the humanities.
Clark serves an ethnically diverse population of students with STEM programs at the same cost per pupil as other district schools (plus grants). About one-half of the school's students qualify for free or reduced lunch. Eighty-five percent of the school's population speaks a language other than English at home, with primary languages being Armenian, Korean and Spanish.
At Clark, the focus is leadership, character and culture of innovation. This culture of innovation includes connecting real world events, challenges and opportunities to the curricula across high school disciplines and grades. Students organize for worldly challenges by assuming project roles and responsibilities and by using industry standard tools, systems and processes when possible. A senior class project is required for every student and is a big part of the way Clark maintains a conversation with the community.
Clark students participate in many competitions, but the art of the school is the internalization of technology-based competitions, careers, and projects across curricula and grades. The school does not have the latest equipment for every project, but that does not stop Clark from building, creating, constructing, simulating and designing new worlds of possibility.
The culture of innovation is a reflection of the school's participatory leadership style, where every stakeholder in the school is involved in the design, execution and sustainability of the school, its story and its future. Clark is about innovation at its core. Clark is recognized as a National Blue Ribbon School (2006), California Distinguished School (2005 and 2009), and has received a California Exemplary Career Technical Education Program Award (2005), and a California Title I Academic Achievement Award (2010, 2009, 2008).
Clark has great pride and humility in their achievements and their school. Principal Douglas Dall is open to visits from anyone who wants to experience the school. This leadership and caring is what makes Clark so special. At Clark, the school is the community. The community is the team. And the students rise with great energy and from all backgrounds to meet the challenge of asking and answering what kind of school, community and world they want to live in. Clark is an answer to what works when TEAMS unifies the arts, academics and career and technical education practice. Stay tuned for part 4 of 5: TEAMS Model State - The Ohio Arts Integration and STEM Initiative.