STEM Institute

The STEM Institute at Roland Park Country School strives to foster within girls the attitudes, cognitive skills, and academic foundations to investigate intellectually rigorous problems in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Our goal is to produce young women with the confidence, passion, persistence, and curiosity to explore the empirical world and to develop innovative habits of mind. Engaging in a problem-based curriculum, students of the Institute learn to plan research projects, work with others, synthesize new knowledge, generate novel solutions, and communicate effectively about their results. Participants develop the necessary ethical, analytical, and creative reasoning skills to  pursue interests in and to prepare for careers in the STEM disciplines.

Program Description

The core of the STEM Institute consists of a series of semester-long research apprenticeships that may be taken in sequential order or as stand-alone courses. These programs are intended for both the student with an interest in a STEM career and the student who is exploring STEM research for the first time. Each course in the ninth and 10th grades teaches a collection of unique skill sets within specific STEM fields that complement the regular scope and sequence of the RPCS math and science programs, and all of the courses employ differentiated instruction to meet the academic needs of students with prior STEM experience as well as those of the novice researcher. Graduates of the STEM Institute will be expected to take all four semesters during ninth and 10th grade, the yearlong 11th grade STEM internship, and then develop a final portfolio of major work completed. The units and semesters in ninth and 10th grade remain autonomous, and any student may take any one (or more) of the semester courses on a pass/fail basis. However, any student who fails to make adequate progress will not be permitted to continue in the Institute.

Graduation Requirements

In addition to and/or in conjunction with the 9th, 10th, and 11th grade components of the program, graduates of the Institute must complete the following academic coursework as part of their general training in order to receive certification:

  • One course of statistics or one course of introductory engineering
  • One course of computer science
  • Any two Advanced Placement STEM courses (e.g., AP Calculus, AP Computer Science, AP Chemistry)
  • One summer internship (departmental approval required)
  • Four full years of science
  • Four full years of math

Portfolio Requirements

Each graduate of the Institute must assemble a final portfolio of at least eight pieces from the list below with at least one coming from each of the four semesters. Possible choices for inclusion in this final portfolio are:

STEM Research Seminar IA

  • Computer model to project magnet strength
  • Peer review formatted paper on short-term memory
  • Formal poster on seasonal change

STEM Research Seminar IB

  • Autonomous Car
  • Presentation of Robot Solution

STEM Research Seminar IIA

  • Computer program for illustrating Euclid’s postulates
  • Formal paper comparing and contrasting Euclidean, Spherical, and Hyperbolic geometries, including potential applications and connections to postulates of each system
  • Project applying topology or one of the 3D geometries to 2D space

STEM Research Seminar IIB

  • Probability Carnival Project
  • Social Media Impact Project

Scope and Sequence Overview

STEM Seminar IA

  • Science – Foundational skills, including literature search for  exploratory science
  • Tech – Programming to create models

STEM Seminar IB

  • Engineering – Ethical case studies; design process; budget; timelines
  • Math – Applied

STEM Seminar IIA

  • Math – Formal
  • Tech – Use and create 2D and 3D models

STEM Seminar IIB

  • Math – Statistical Analysis
  • Science – Modeling Phenomena (e.g., epidemics, markets, etc.)

Core Course Descriptions

STEM Research Seminar IA: Scientific Modeling
This course introduces students to the applications of technology to the process of scientific investigation.  Students will learn to write basic software programs to model different natural phenomena, and they will complete a detailed investigation on seasonal change and a study on short-term memory to develop their ability to evaluate scientific literature and determine appropriate tool use.  A poster presentation and learning to write a peer-reviewed paper are the culminating activities for this course.

STEM Research Seminar IB: Robotics
This course introduces students to the basic elements and demands of engineering and applied mathematics.  Students will complete a semester long design project that simulates the engineering and math needed for self-driving cars. They will design with the array of sensors needed to determine the state of the driving environment and learn the technology and constraints of controlling a vehicle through software control, and they will finish the course by learning how to program your sensor-rich robots to develop capabilities for autonomous vehicles.

STEM Research Seminar IIA: Non-Euclidean Geometry
This course interweaves technology and pure mathematics as it investigates non-traditional geometries and topological topics.  Students will study possible shapes of the universe and the techniques to project 3- and 4-dimensional objects on a 2-dimensional surface.  They will explore Euclidean, Spherical and Hyperbolic 2-Dimensional Geometries, Mobius Strips and Klein Bottles as well as 3-Dimensional Projective Geometries, and they will learn how technology supports these mathematics by enabling students to visualize and investigate mathematical objects that cannot be built in our 3-Dimensional world or drawn on a 2-Dimensional plane.  Students explore the complexity of such interactive programs and learn to write their own using Scratch and MATLAB programming languages.  The course culminates with a final project of the student’s choosing related to topics studied during the semester.

STEM Research Seminar IIB: Statistical Literacy
This course lays the foundation for success in all the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics disciplines and introduces students to the skills for statistical literacy. Students will collect data from various sources and develop statistical models.  They will learn to design surveys, calculate probabilities, summarize and display data, and use statistics to interpret results. Projects include designing a carnival game and examining the impact of social media.  For the culminating activity, students will apply statistical methods to the investigation of a societal issue of their choice.

11th Grade STEM Internship
Each full graduate of the Institute will be expected to complete this year long course, introducing students to how the disciplines of science and engineering are integrated with one another.  Students will explore materials science and environmental impact to develop a novel sunscreen formula and the package to contain it for retail purposes.  Students will learn how to develop an engineering research proposal, and they will create a prototype product to test for quality control.  All students will complete a culminating project examining sustainable design.

Other STEM Opportunities

8th Grade Accelerated STEM Program
This year-long course prepares girls with strong abilities in math and science to participate in the Upper School accelerated science sequence. As part of their preparation, students in the course will participate in national STEM competitions such as the Toshiba ExploraVision program and the  eCYBERMISSION competition.

The Environmental Science Summer Research Experience for Young Women (E.S.S.R.E.)
Launched in 2001, E.S.S.R.E. is a three-week summer internship in environmental field studies for 9th and 10th grade girls from the greater Baltimore area. Participants explore the soil chemistry and biota of the Roland Park Country School campus, author and test lab activities for studying soil  microenvironments, and adapt these labs for dissemination and use in a wide variety of educational situations and socio-economic conditions. The program’s primary objectives are to give this target audience the opportunity to engage in authentic, self-directed primary research into the ecological roles of soil microbes and, as a result, to nurture their interest in science in general as a possible career option.

E.S.S.R.E. has received national recognition for its efforts to promote the study of soil ecology and for encouraging young women’s interests in research. Former interns have gone on to work at national research centers and many graduates of the program have pursued careers in science.

STEM-Plus: Preschool–Grade 8
At RPCS, we recognize that intellectual passions can arise at any stage in life. But it is the early years that the National Research Council has identified as especially critical to developing an interest in STEM, and for that reason, we have identified an intellectual toolkit (see below) to provide our  students with the skills to nurture this interest. Integrated into the full Preschool through 8th Grade curriculum, our students employ this toolkit regularly in problem-solving projects that can include:

  • Using sustainable practices to grow and harvest gardens on campus
  • Participating in a bridge-building design competition
  • Creating and analyzing fraction quilts
  • Learning computer code to build unique designs with newly found skills

The STEM-Plus Preschool – Grade 8 Toolkit

  • Perseverance
  • Knowledge is interdisciplinary
  • Independent thinkers/risk takers
  • Collaboration
  • Curiosity
  • Knowledge evolves over time
  • Understanding has levels of complexity for the same idea
  • Can reflect on progress
  • Comfortable with making mistakes
  • Knowledge has consequences for the social and natural world
  • Effects have causes
  • Interconnectedness of all knowledge
  • Critical consumer of knowledge
  • Comfortable using technology
  • Measurement
  • Design
  • Graphing
  • Communication
  • Computational thinking
  • Identifying a problem
  • Creating a plan to solve a problem
  • Supporting a solution to a problem with evidence
  • Logical reasoning
  • Self-assessment of solutions
  • Observation
  • Pattern recognition

“The STEM disciplines are important for all students. They teach logical thinking as well as practical skills. Yet, too often, girls buy into the societal pressure that these subjects are not
for them.” The National Coalition of Girls’ Schools