STEM Hybrid gives classroom option to home-schooled students

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Home-schooled kids in Douglas County now have an alternative to a full-time classroom education. The STEM Hybrid program offers two days of classes for middle- and high-school-aged students.

Fifty-two students already participate in the program, launched in the fall of 2011. Twenty more are on the waiting list for the 2012-13 academic year, proof that the nontraditional school is needed, its staff members say.

The program gives its students hands-on experiences in science, math, engineering and technology, the core of any STEM school.

But students also study literature and writing, making it a full-spectrum program. Its goal is to ready the students for the transition from home school to college.

Some students also take college courses at Arapahoe Community College while participating in the hybrid program.

“This is highly needed in the area,” said applied sciences teacher Christine Meek. “There are no college-prep programs for home-schooled high schoolers.”

The Hybrid is affiliated with the STEM charter high school, a full-time program also in its first year at a campus off Lucent Boulevard and C-470 in Highlands Ranch.

The Douglas County STEM program also includes a third arm, the STEM Academy, which offers science- and technology-focused after-school activities and traditional athletics.

Meek described the Hybrid STEM curriculum, currently housed in the basement of Horizon Community Church, as rigorous.

“Bringing industry into the classroom and increasing those 21st century skills is top priority,” she said.

During her classes, Meek said she strives to bring science and math to life for her students by asking, “What is this in the real world? Not just on a piece of paper.”

As an example of that real-world application, teams of students recently were required to build small-scale cities from recycled materials.

Meek also requested teams add at least one element with movement or illumination, and urged the students to consider necessary services, zoning and the scale of buildings.

In addition to streets and houses, students built wastewater treatment plants, mass transit systems, graveyards, fire stations, city halls and in one city, a section for the homeless.

In addition to including engineering, math, science and technology, the project required students to share ideas and work together.

“STEM has this freedom to give students the ability to integrate real-world information,” Meek said. “It’s wonderful to give them an avenue to create.”

Students are educated not according to grade level, but ability.

“We feel the kids need to go wherever their abilities take them,” Hybrid program director Marti Bacon said. “So we have an eighth-grader taking calculus and physics. Next year, we plan to enrich him by sending him to Arapahoe Community College.

“We don’t want to hold kids back. If they’re bored, that’s when the kids that are bright just fall through the cracks.”

The STEM school was founded on the belief that American students need more education in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics to be effective participants in the global marketplace.

For more information on the Hybrid program and Douglas County’s STEM program, visit stemhigh.org/Hybrid.

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