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The Marple Newtown High School STEM Academy: Building Skills to Become Future Leaders

Marple Friends & Neighbors, September 2022

High school students all have their own set of unique strengths and skills. Some students shine on the stage whereas others prefer conducting lab experiments or coding software. Now, Marple Newtown students don’t have to wait until college to pursue their academic interests at a deeper level. In September 2021, the Marple Newtown High School STEM Academy welcomed its first cohort of ninth graders (STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math).

The Marple Newtown High School STEM Academy offers students a rigorous program to learn the skills they need to enhance their academic potential and prepare them to confidently contribute to social, civil and economic outcomes. “STEM teaches students critical thinking and innovation skills, which will help them tremendously in the workforce,” said MNHS Principal Mr. John Beltrante. “Our students in the program will be equipped to enter college and their future career with knowledge and tools for leadership.” 

The program was in the works for several years and, under MNHS principal Mr. Beltrante’s leadership, it came to fruition last year. Mr. Beltrante said that soon after he took on the role as principal, the wheels were turning to create a rigorous, STEM-enriched program for Marple Newtown students. “There was a high level of interest from staff and faculty to put together this type of program and through a collaborative effort between our CCAC Counselors, the high school administration, the Teaching and Learning Team along with the support of our superintendent, our plan was developed,” he said. “Despite challenges along the way, including the pandemic, the STEM Academy team persevered and welcomed our first class of the STEM Academy in the fall of 2021.”

What sets MNHS’s Stem Academy apart from other STEM programs in our area and in other parts of the country is that it is a school within a school. “Although the STEM Academy students are following a different program, we want the students to have the most normal high school experience as possible,” Mr. Beltrante explained. “We want to give them the new experience and push them, but make sure they are connected with the school and all it has to offer.”

There are three educational pathways for students to choose from: 

  • Health, Medicine and Biology
  • eSports, Media and Communication
  • Engineering and Applied Science

Incoming freshmen in the program will get an in-depth look at each pathway through an Exploratory Studies course before choosing a pathway by their 10th-grade year. 

MNHS STEM Academy students are required to take two Design Thinking courses as well as several other pathway-specific courses focused on employability skills and the use of design thinking to solve real-world problems. STEM students are also required to take six Advanced Placement courses during the course of their high school career. “Marple’s STEM program provides more rigorous course options,” Mr. Beltrante said. “It is hands-on and challenging, which pushes students to develop independent thought and initiative to succeed.” Depending on the path they choose, there will be STEM-centered electives as well as internship opportunities.

An advisory council comprised of area business and industry professionals help steer the academy’s initiatives. The STEM team was able to bring in a variety of companies in the STEM field for a Career Carousel this past Spring. The students also traveled to Penn State Brandywine to participate in their STEM Pathways Program, an interactive program with faculty and other professionals.

Students in the inaugural cohort already started building the skills they need to become future leaders. From design challenges and business proposals to large presentations, these collaborative team-building experiences broadened their STEM education. “Seeing the level of interest and success the students had in the first year was inspiring,” said Mr. Beltrante. 

The mission of Marple Newtown’s STEM Academy is to be a multifaceted, holistic experience that will shape students to be agents of positive change. “We hope to spark their curiosity, open their minds to the possibility of greatness and engage them in learning beyond their current visions of intellectual success,” Mr. Beltrante said. To learn more about the STEM academy and how to apply visit www.mnsd.org.