What is the John C. Dunham STEM Partnership School at Aurora University?
The school is an attendance site for 200 third- through eighth-grade students from four adjacent public school districts: Batavia (101), East Aurora (131), Indian Prairie (204) and West Aurora (129). Students are selected by each district via a lottery system, and they learn via an innovative education model that emphasizes science, technology, engineering and mathematics, while also fulfilling all other subjects required by the state of Illinois. Teachers are drawn from the four partner school districts and teach STEM students while simultaneously pursuing advanced studies.
Why does the School exist?
The school exists because the community realized young minds could be forever enriched by an education grown from nontraditional partnerships. Numerous organizations, including the school districts, Aurora University, local corporations, foundations, and elected officials spent years diligently researching and developing a concept unlike anything else in the world. They knew that by crossing traditional boundaries and limitations, students could receive a stimulating and constantly evolving education in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Also, they knew that the program would even benefit students who don’t attend the STEM School directly, because teachers would be drawn from the partner school districts, learn advanced methods of teaching STEM subjects, and return to their home schools equipped with new methods and wisdom.
Where is the School located?
The STEM School is located on the campus of Aurora University, a private, not-for-profit institution of higher learning that has been serving the Fox Valley for more than 100 years. The 30,000 square-foot school, opened in 2014, is a dynamic learning environment designed to stimulate young minds to explore science, technology, engineering and mathematics. STEM students use the same advanced laboratories as AU students, granting them rare access to state-of-the-art technology and research tools. The building itself was carefully designed to serve as a living lab; not only can students see through the walls and ceilings of the school to observe engineering at work, but cutting-edge green features, such as a wind turbine, roof gardens, and advanced climate and lighting systems garnered the school the rare distinction of LEED Platinum status in 2015 (outside link).
When did the STEM School begin?
The first full year of instruction at the STEM school began in August 2014, but the concept was years in the making (see “Why does the School exist,” above). Initial conversations transpired in 2009, and construction began in 2013 on a piece of land previously used for Aurora University parking.
Who is eligible to enroll?
Based on special state legislation enacted for the STEM School, each participating district selects students who are interested in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics even if they haven’t yet excelled academically. Currently, the school hosts approximately 200 students, with equal numbers drawn from each district and spread across grades three through eight. John C. Dunham STEM Partnership School students remain students of their respective districts but attend the STEM School on the Aurora University campus daily.
How can my student enroll?
Interest in the school remains very high, particularly as our model has flourished since the school’s opening. Each partner school district manages its own selection process, conducted via lottery. The only criterion is an interest in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, not demonstrated proficiency. The STEM School hosts an open parent night (with the same material posted online for those unable to attend), inviting prospective parents in to see the remarkable facility and to meet the equally remarkable faculty and staff who lead it. A good first step for any interested parent is to contact their child’s school for more information about their district’s specific procedures.