STEM Education at Monroe Technology Center - November 2011

by Deborah Chaves

The term STEM is frequently used in academic circles, but what is it exactly? STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. In 2008, Virginia’s Governor Timothy Kaine announced grants that led to the formation of Governor’s Career and Technical Academies for the purpose of promoting STEM instruction in Career and Technical Education programs. Many programs at Monroe Technology Center (MTC), which houses the Governor’s Career and Technical Academy of Loudoun, have science, technology, engineering and/or math imbedded into their curriculums. The department of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources is taking STEM a step further and adding an ‘I’ for ‘integrated’ to promote ISTEM.

Virginia Tech has been a leader in researching and promoting Integrative STEM Education and defines it as "...technological/engineering design-based learning approaches that intentionally integrate content and process of science and/or mathematics education with content and process of technology and/or engineering education. Integrative STEM education may be enhanced through further integration with other school subjects, such as language arts, social studies, art, etc." (Sanders and Wells 2010)

Joining with over thirty classes in the US and abroad, MTC Biotech and EPS students are participating in the online resource program,, which pairs scientific teams with a scientist. This program fosters ‘student research through inquiry and online mentorship,’ MTC Biotechnology and Environmental Plant Science students have been engaged in plant genetics research investigating the growth patterns in many recombinant inbred lines of the plant Arabidopsis thaliana. Using a design-based scientific inquiry approach, students are utilizing and integrating technology through their use of various technological equipment, such as Gro-lite systems, light meters, and information technology. After photographing their plant growth, they will upload their data to a sophisticated software engineering program (UPHOTOMEASURE) that calculates the area of leaf and root surfaces as a means of data measurement. All this involves the use and application of math principles necessary to perform calculations. Additionally, language arts development is integrated as they prepare their journal reports and correspond with their scientist mentors. The Biotechnology students plan to use this experiment as a trial run for their next experiment which will be entered into the Loudoun County Science Fair in March.

You can follow their experiment and uploads online. The name of the Biotech team is "The Green Party." The EPS teams are "Fast and Forestry" and "The Fromping Sprouts."

(Mrs. Chaves is the instructor for Biotechnology and Environmental Plant Science. She recently completed the Integrative STEM Education Graduate Certificate Program at Virginia Tech)
plant  growing
measuring  weighing