At Westridge, STEM education is an interdisciplinary approach to learning that joins academically-challenging concepts with real-world lessons. Here, girls apply science, technology, engineering, and mathematics in frameworks that make connections between school, community, careers, and the global economy. With STEM skills, young women can make a big contribution to many of the challenges facing society today.
We promote STEM in some of the following ways:
Analytical, laboratory-based science curriculum: The Research in Science elective provides students with hands-on research opportunities with universities and research institutions including California Technical Institute (Caltech) and Children’s Hospital. In the past four years, 20 Westridge seniors have worked with scientists at Caltech and Children’s Hospital, performing research in computational biology, physical and occupational therapy, particle astrophysics, cellular biology and environmental geology.
State-of-art science facility: In fall 2010, Westridge completed construction on the campus' first LEED-certified, environmentally sustainable facility dedicated to girls studying science. The Science & Mathematics Building, encompassing approximately 14,000 square feet on two levels, houses math and science classrooms, extensive laboratory spaces, faculty offices, as well as indoor and outdoor study, gathering, and meeting spaces for students and faculty alike. A teaching tool in itself, "green" technology and hands-on experimentation and observation areas are central features of the facility where girls DO science, not just study it.
Innovation and Design Elective: Upper School girls in this elective take part in a Southern California Science Olympiad competition that includes approximately 50 regional high schools. They compete in engineering design, science knowledge, and laboratory events. The science areas include biology, earth science, geology, chemistry, physics, and others.
Rocketry Club: Founded by Maddie '16 in the summer of 2013, the club participates in the Team Rocketry of America Challenge, the world’s largest student rocket contest and a key piece of the aerospace industry’s strategy to build a stronger U.S. workforce in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). The competition is sponsored by the Aerospace Industries Association, the National Association of Rocketry, and NASA, and 80% of surveyed competition alumni reported they planned to pursue a STEM-focused major in college.
Computer Science Courses: Seventh grade girls thrive in Computer Science, a STEM-focused, project-based course focused on allowing girls to make personal and meaningful connections to computing by drawing upon creativity, imagination and individual interests. Middle School girls learn to code in three different programs, build and program robots, design and create video games and explore engineering concepts in a series of hands-on challenges. As 8th graders, Westridge girls continue to build design and coding skills by creating, sharing and publishing games for the X-Box in Digital Media class.
Guest Lecturers: Seventh grade science classes worked with Dr. Stephen Gruber, Director of the USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center. Dr. Gruber taught an interactive lesson on genetic testing for certain cancer mutations and explored how this helps target treatment. He presented information on medical genetics and conducted role plays where girls were genetics counselors, physicians, lab technicians, and social workers who interacted with a fictitious 12 year-old patient and her mother.
Lower School Robotics: Beginning in 4th grade, Westridge girls enjoy the hands-on experience of designing, constructing, and programming their own robots. As educators, we can use robotics to teach the practical application of mathematics, physics, computer science, and engineering. Robots are actually great teachers because they give students immediate feedback. In addition to promoting logical thinking, mathematical and problem-solving skills, robotics can encourage creativity and teamwork. Our projects are designed to be open-ended so girls have to use their imaginations, take risks, and work together in teams. This group work encourages teamwork, cooperation and group problem-solving skills. The culminating unit in 6th grade is a math-science-technology interdisciplinary robotics unit.
Tinkering Stations: Sixth grade homerooms at Westridge enjoy direct access to tinkering stations. Tinkering stations invite girls to be makers and creators, not just consumers. Westridge values the power of engaging girls through hands-on experiences when they are taking things apart, experimenting, and inventing their own creations. Tinkering helps develop intellectual risk-taking, critical thinking, creativity, and skills in other areas that promote success in STEM fields.