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Overview of STEM Programming in Tennessee

STEM Education is designed for students interested in the exciting careers available in the high-demand fields of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. This program of study is uniquely structured to offer students an overview of STEM fields, occupations, and applications in the first year, followed by more specialized study of the scientific inquiry or engineering design process in subsequent years, culminating in a portfolio and internship experience. Upon completion of this program of study, students will be prepared to pursue advanced study in the STEM field of their choice at a variety of postsecondary institutions.

Given the critical nature of much of the work in STEM, job possibilities abound even in times of economic downturn. More scientists, technologists and engineers will be needed to meet environmental regulations and to develop methods of cleaning up existing hazards. A shift in emphasis toward preventing problems rather than controlling those that already exist, as well as increasing public health concerns, also will spur demand for these positions.


Current STEM Course Offerings in Collierville Schools:



Starting with the 2018-2019 school year, Collierville Schools expanded our STEM education program at both middle schools. All middle school students in Collierville will receive daily STEM education through a STEM class during the regular school day. Using the Project Lead the Way curriculum (see below), students will study various STEM disciplines through the exploration of real-world challenges.

STEM Curriculum: Project Lead the Way

The middle school curriculum, called PLTW Gateway, will provide our students with versatile skills by studying and exploring real-world challenges. We have selected six of the ten available modules for teachers to take students on rigorous studies into various STEM disciplines throughout the students’ middle school career. Below are short descriptions of the modules from PLTW:

6th Grade

Design and Modeling: Students discover the design process and develop an understanding of the influence of creativity and innovation in their lives. Students use tools such as the design process, a dynamic mathematics software, a computer-aided design program, computer simulations, and engineering notebook, and possibly a 3D printer to design, model, and build objects. They are challenged and empowered to use and apply what they’ve learned throughout the unit to design a therapeutic toy for a child who has cerebral palsy, fabricate and test it, and make necessary modifications to optimize the design solution.

Energy and the Environment: Students are challenged to think big toward the future as they explore sustainable solutions to our energy needs and investigate the impact of energy on our lives and the world. They use what they’ve learned to design and model alternative energy sources, as well as evaluate options for reducing energy consumption. Students use tools such as the engineering design process, an engineering notebook, and alternative energy modeling to invent and innovate.

7th Grade

Automation and Robotics: Students trace the history, development, and impact of automation and robotics as they explore mechanical systems, energy transfer, machine automation, and computer control systems. Using the VEX Robotics platform, students apply what they know to design and program traffic lights, toll booths, robotic arms, and more.

Medical Detectives: Students play the role of real-life medical detectives as they analyze genetic testing results to diagnose disease and study DNA evidence found at a “crime scene.” They use tools such as the engineering design process, an engineering notebook, and electrophoresis to solve medical mysteries through hands-on projects and labs, investigate how to measure and interpret vital signs, and learn how the systems of the human body work together to maintain health. 

8th Grade

Science of Technology: Science impacts the technology or yesterday, today, and the future. In this unit, students apply the concepts of physics, chemistry, and nanotechnology to STEM activities and projects. They will use tools such as the engineering design process, an engineering notebook, computer simulations, and prototyping materials to invent and innovate, including making ice cream, creating adhesives, cleaning up an oil spill, using machines to create motion, and discovering the properties and applications of nanomaterials.

Flight and Space: The exciting world of aerospace comes alive through Flight and Space. During this unit, students delve into the history of flight and space, discover the science behind aeronautics, and explore traveling and living in space. Students are then challenged to use the engineering design process, an engineering notebook, computer simulations, and their knowledge to design, build, and test an airfoil.



Collierville Schools is excited to offer the Project Lead the Way (PLTW) curriculum in Kindergarten through 8th grade. Topics elementary students will experience that will supplement and/or enhance the regular science and math curriculum include:


Picture-Perfect STEM Lessons - From NSTA Press, these lessons draw from fiction and nonfiction books that provide a foundation of science exploration. Students learn how to ask questions, define problems, and design their own processes for developing solutions, and engage in argument from evidence.

Animals and Algorithms – Students explore the nature of computers and the ways humans control and use technology. Starting with an unplugged activity, students learn about the sequential nature of computer programs. Students are inspired by a story in which Angelina, Mylo, and Suzi make videos to teach preschoolers about animals in their habitats. Then, students work in small groups to design and program a simple digital animation about an animal in its habitat. 

1st Grade

Animal Adaptations – Students explore animal adaptations for protection, camouflage, food obtainment, and locomotion. Students learn what it means for an organism to be adapted to its environment and how different adaptations can be categorized. Students are introduced to the design challenge when Suzi announces she is visiting the Sahara and needs to get prepared for her trip. Students are challenged to design the ideal shoe for travelers to wear in extreme environments, applying what they have learned and looking to plant and animal adaptations to guide their designs.

Animated Storytelling – Students explore the sequential nature of computer programs through hands-on activities, both with and without a computer. They examine key aspects of storytelling and devise how to transition a narrative from page to screen. Students discover the design problem through a story about Angelina, Mylo, and Suzi, who wish they could find a way to create a story with characters who move and interact with each other. Combining fundamental principles of computer science with story-building skills, students develop animations that showcase characters, settings, actions, and events from short stories of their own creation.

2nd Grade

Pushes and Pulls – Students investigate pushes and pulls on the motion of an object and develop knowledge and skills related to forces of differing strengths and directions. Their explorations include pushes and pulls found in their everyday world, such as pushing a friend on a swing or pulling a wagon. In this module’s design problem, Suzi needs to move rocks from her yard so she can install a swing set. Students work through the problem by applying what they learn about forces. Materials Science: Properties of Matter – Students investigate and classify different kinds of materials by their observable properties, including color and texture. They learn about states of matter and properties of materials including insulators and conductors. In the design problem, Angelina, Mylo, and Suzi, are challenged to keep ice pops cold during a soccer game – without a cooler. Students apply their knowledge and skills to determine the best material to solve this design problem and then evaluate how their designs might be improved. 

Grids and Games – Students investigate numerical relationships while learning about the sequence and structure required in computer programs. Starting with computer-free activities and moving to tablet-based challenges, students apply addition and subtraction strategies to make characters move on a grid. Angelina presents the design problem when she expresses her desire to design a game she can play on her tablet. Using skills and knowledge gained from these activities, students work together in groups to design and develop a game in which a player interacts with objects on a tablet screen.

3rd Grade

Infection: Detection – Students explore transmission of infection, agents of disease, and mechanisms the body uses to stay healthy. Through a simulation, they compare communicable and non-communicable diseases. In the design problem, Suzi comes down with a fever and sore throat, and her friends wonder how this illness might have spread across the school. Students tackle the design problem by examining evidence to deduce the agent of infection, the likely source of the outbreak, and the path of transmission through a school. They design and run an experiment related to limiting the spread of germs and apply results to propose appropriate prevention methods.

Programming Patterns – This module introduces students to the power of modularity and abstraction. Starting with computer-free activities and progressing to programming in a blocks-based language on a tablet, students learn how to think computationally about a problem. Angelina, Mylo, and Suzi set the stage for the design problem as they discuss their desire to create video games on their tablet. Students then create a tablet game using modular functions and branching logic. 

4th Grade

Input/Output: Computer Systems – In this exploration of how computers work, students are encouraged to make analogies between the parts of the human body and parts that make up a computer. Students investigate reaction time as a measure of nervous system function. After Mylo suffers a concussion, his friends become interested in how to diagnose concussions and create a reaction-time computer program to assess a baseline before a concussion occurs. Students apply what they have learned to build their own reaction- time measurement devices on tablets.

Energy: Collisions – Students explore the properties of mechanisms and how they change energy by transferring direction, speed, type of movement, and force. Students discover a variety of ways potential energy can be stored and released as kinetic energy. They explain the relationship between the speed of an object and the energy of that object, as well as predict the transfer of energy as a result of a collision between two objects. The design problem is introduced by Angelina, Mylo, and Suzi watching amusement park bumper cars collide. As students solve the problem for this module, they apply their knowledge and skills to develop a vehicle restraint system.

5th Grade

Robotics and Automation – Students explore the ways robots are used in today’s world and their impact on society and the environment. Students learn about a variety of robotic components as they build and test mobile robots that may be controlled remotely. Angelina, Mylo, and Suzi are tasked with designing a mobile robot that can remove hazardous materials from a disaster site. Students are then challenged to design, model, and test a mobile robot that solves this design problem.

Variation of Traits – Students investigate the differences between inherited genetic traits and traits learned or influenced by the environment. They explore the phenomena that o spring may express different traits than parents as they learn about dominant and recessive genes and also investigate how predicted outcomes compare to experimental results. Angelina, Mylo, and Suzi introduce the design problem when challenged to examine different traits found in three sets of seeds. Students then model how the gene for stem color is passed on and expressed among sample sets.