High schools seek pros for advice on science and tech education | News

In a bid to prepare students for future careers in science and tech, the Mountain View-Los Altos High School District is calling on pros from local industries to weigh in on how to best tailor classes for the jobs of tomorrow.

Last month, district officials put out the solicitation for professional volunteers to serve on advisory boards for either Mountain View or Los Altos high schools, where they would meet bimonthly to help the district craft what it’s calling STEAM academies — short for science, technology, engineering, arts and math.

This year marks the inaugural advisory board for Mountain View High, whereas Los Altos is seeking to recruit more member for its existing committee, which has been meeting over the last two years. Members of each board will get a chance to work directly with teachers to develop curriculum and student projects.

District officials are seeking to tap into the deep pool of local talent in Silicon Valley to introduce students to subjects that includ mechanical engineering, computer science and robotics, potentially expanding into other subjects like biotechnology. Outside of the STEM-focused careers, the advisory panels could also include members who have a background in business and marketing. Advisory board members are in a prime position to influence the district’s existing course content as well as the introduction of new classes.

The courses are not designed to be taken in a vacuum — classes are intended to create a multi-year “pathway” for students to build on skills that eventually culminate in a senior capstone project.

The announcement comes shortly after Los Altos High School hosted its STEAM week in October, which assembled a long list of speakers representing some of the top universities, startups and companies in the world in order to give students a taste of what kind of careers await them in the world of science, technology, engineering and math.

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Although the committees may appear to de-emphasize the “arts” in STEAM, that’s certainly not the intent, nor has it been the case for Los Altos’ existing advisory board, according to Brigitte Sarraf, the district’s director of accountability and evaluation. She said the existing panel has focused on careers outside of tech, including architecture design, marketing, entrepreneurship, visual and media arts, and that expertise is sought on all of those areas.

“It is clearly a STEAM Academy,” she said. “Los Altos High School is further along on the ‘A’ component than Mountain View High School. Both schools feel strongly about the inclusion and connection to arts and design.”

The STEAM classes would be in addition to other tech savvy career-focused education programs run by the high school district, including the Freestyle Academy digital arts and media program that’s open to juniors and seniors from both high schools. Other so-called Career Technical Education (CTE) initiatives include classes at Alta Vista, which teach students a broad range of skills including masonry, construction, plumbing, electrical and solar installation.

The district is assembling the STEAM advisory boards as part of a statewide effort on CTE programs, following increased funding and interest from California’s elected officials to better link between high school education and future job opportunities. Although it would seem that both Mountain View and Los Altos high schools would have the same job market and the same goals in mind, state law requires that the advisory boards be separate, according to district staff.

Anyone interested in joining the Mountain View High School advisory board may contact mvhs.steamacademy@mvla.net, while prospective candidates for the Los Altos board may contact lahs.steamacademy@mvla.net. There is no hard deadline for applications, and district officials are looking for “as many candidates as possible.”

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