Why a Theme-Based or STEM High School is a Great Choice for Teens

Connecticut River Academy (CTRA), a Goodwin College magnet school, offers a theme-based, early college program for ambitious high school students. Connecticut River Academy is similar to a STEM high school, which stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics.

You might have heard some buzz around STEM high schools, and maybe you’ve even thought to yourself, “Well, regular public, private, and charter high schools offer courses in these subjects, too!” You might be wondering, “What makes STEM schools so different?” According to LiveScience, STEM schools are different because each subject is integrated with one another. This type of approach has applications to daily life, and prepares students for various related, future professions in STEM subjects.

Given this interdisciplinary approach to education, researchers, educators, and administrators call STEM and theme-based schools “blended learning environments.” Students can begin their careers in STEM magnet schools early, even at the elementary level! By high school, students in STEM programs are challenged in these subjects and prepared to continue their education at the post-secondary level. Not only do teens learn about the careers related to these subjects, they also work with their local communities to reinforce the school-to-life bridge. Connecticut River Academy, though not specifically a STEM high school, is a theme-based magnet school focusing specifically on Sustainability through two basic branches of study: Environmental Science and Advanced Manufacturing. Our scholars, like STEM students, open the doors to their future through the investigation of integrated subjects.

What makes a STEM high school, or a theme-based magnet school, a good choice for your teen? Advanced math and science sound great in theory, but garnishing real interest from the person doing the learning sounds a bit more complicated. You know better than anyone that if your teen doesn’t want to do something, it is close to impossible to make them comply. The great news is, the motivation process in this situation is much more organic than you might think! Education Week found that high school students who are enthusiastic about STEM learning actually transfer their positive feelings to other peers. More broadly, learning in an environment where the community is passionate about the same subjects heightens the likelihood that students will apply their high school learning focus to college and beyond. From this report, we learn that peer interest is completely contagious! Connecticut River Academy sees this happening in our classrooms, and promises that our program benefits teens who desire a supportive educational environment and to be surrounded by other motivated students interested in similar themes. This is one huge reason why a theme-based high school education is so highly recommended for your teenager.

Getting the most out of a STEM or a theme-based high school such as Connecticut River Academy also means that students must do a good deal of future-thinking. Not only do our scholars picture themselves through a mature, global focus – thanks to the school’s vision, values, and mission, as well as its three magnet standards – they may also earn up to 30 transferable college credits, at no tuition cost.

Connecticut River Academy scholars also benefit from personal advising, which begins early in the grade 9. Advisors help teens develop through activities which support their academic courses, career paths, and their social and emotional growth. They set benchmarks and a Student Success Plan, which allows for helpful evaluations. Can you imagine how daily meetings with an advisor could benefit a developing young adult? This means that at CTRA, there is always someone dedicated to guiding your teen, making sure they stay on track, and are never lost in the shuffle of a traditional high school.

The Journal of Research in Science Teaching recently published a study on the success of STEM-focused high schools, and reported that theme-based programs like STEM take a “whole-school” as well as a “whole-student” approach, which allows these programs to control the school climate and peer culture, which are known to influence students’ choices. With more demanding coursework, along with a pre-college atmosphere, their students then embark on focused pathways within their college careers.

Theme-based magnet schools also put academic excellence in reach for high school students. According to the Public School Review, students in theme-based schools surpass the levels of achievement they would have otherwise reached in their district-zoned schools. Experts also say that an integrated, theme-based curriculum is supported by scientific research on how the brain learns.

In all of these ways, Connecticut River Academy commits to the holistic approach of a theme-based education: to nurture and educate the whole student, and best prepare them for a rich future.

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