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STEAM Ahead NH initiative featured in WSJ




A Wall Street Journal article on STEAM Ahead NH and its partnership with West High School is making the rounds today, highlighting the innovative educational initiative aimed at creating partnerships between local tech companies and New Hampshire schools to fill the “desperate” need for a skilled labor force.

You can read the WSJ article here.

If you’re not up to speed yet on STEAM Ahead NH, below is a summary of the program, provided by STEAM Ahead NH director and former Manchester Mayor Robert Baines:

STEAM Ahead NH is a comprehensive educational initiative based in Manchester, NH, that focuses on science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics. It is a partnership between Manchester High School West, the Manchester School District, Manchester Community College, the University System of New Hampshire, Southern New Hampshire University and Manchester businesses DYN and SilverTech. We are also in conversations with the Virtual Learning Academy, an online public charter school based in Exeter, NH about providing additional online course opportunities.  It is the first-ever school transformation effort in the State of New Hampshire involving New Hampshire businesses, educators and administrators from all levels of public and private education.The goal of the project is to provide a rigorous college-level learning experience for high school students who will earn up to one full-year of college credits at no cost, and to connect students to quality STEAM careers so that the may fill local STEAM jobs and live and work in New Hampshire.

Through this unique partnership between the high school and its partnership with Manchester Community College, the University System of New Hampshire and Southern New Hampshire University, high school students will be provided the opportunity to earn up to a full-year of college credits while they are in high school at no costs. Credits will be earned in a variety of ways. High school courses will be aligned with college courses and taught by masters-level teachers. Students will receive both high school and college credit for the successful completion of these courses. Some courses with be taught by both high school teachers and college professors. Some courses will be taken on college campus and others may be completed online. There will also be opportunities for internships and other extended learning opportunities. These experiences will follow a curriculum with competencies that must be met and assessed. Successful completion will result in high school credit and in some cases college and high school credit.

The pilot program established a STEAM Ahead Academy at Manchester High School West in the fall of 2014 with 60 students enrolled in the first cohort. To address the critical need for more STEM graduates in New Hampshire, the initial pathways for students will be computer science, engineering, allied health and the performing arts. The arts are included because of the importance of creativity for those who pursue a STEM education. Coursework and internships will be integrated so as to prepare students for applied learning and build initial contacts with local STEM employers.

During the junior and senior years students may not be in classes five days per week. They will be provided opportunities to engage in these internships and other extended learning opportunities up to two school days each week. This part of the program is being developed.

This year, we are also retrofitting four classrooms at West into STEAM classrooms that feature flexible furniture, unique design with interactive technology. The classroom design allows for a number of various type configurations that can be user-defined based on need.   This type of multipurpose approach allows the classroom to morph into whatever the teacher may need to facilitate:  a lecture, a team based project, individual learning or a collaborative environment or a combination thereof. Mobility is key and some of the ancillary product in the room incorporates various storage options as well as castered mobile units to be able to move around freely as needed. See video below:

An interactive environment quite removed from the old days of students trying to “hide” in the back row.Teachers attest to the fact that “connecting” with the students has huge dividends in the learning process. Physical proximity, visual access and audio clarity all come into play.   This environment plays keenly into being defined and operated by the teachers and the students – give them what they need when they need it, and remove what they don’t need so that added space is used effectively.  Please view this video posted above.

In addition, there is an entire technology upgrade happening along with each student being issued a tablet computer.  It is a substantial upgrade from what the classrooms have currently and there is an entire group of IT specialists also working on this project with us.

We are inviting the broader business community in New Hampshire and beyond to become engaged in this exciting effort to revolutionize education in our state and to enhance the efforts of the Community College System of NH and the University System of NH to double the number of STEM graduates by 2025.

To strengthen STEM education in our state, we are also partnering with Plymouth State University and Granite State College to create a low-cost, high school-based Masters Degree program for teachers in all Manchester High Schools. By increasing the number of teachers with Masters Degrees and content level coursework, Manchester teachers will be qualified to instruct students in high school courses  college credits for the students (Dual Enrollment/Running Start).

With the support of Governor John Lynch, Mayor Ted Gatsas and other business leaders, we are now engaged in a comprehensive effort with the broader business community to support STEAM Ahead NH. Our goal to is be THE catalyst for comprehensive school reform throughout the State of New Hampshire.  This includes changing the classroom environment, shifting pedagogical practices, personalizing the education of each student and the manner in which students are expected to learn and demonstrate their knowledge.  The teachers at West have been engaging in curriculum redesign around problem-based competency learning, which will ensure most students leave high school with the necessary critical thinking and problem solving skills necessary for success in college and the workplace. To ensure our success and sustain our efforts we need the support and active involvement of high technology, advanced manufacturing, healthcare, financial services and other industries.

STEAM Ahead Business Supporters as of Aug. 19, 2014


Silver Tech


Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield of NH


NBT Bank

People’s United Bank

Mall of NH

Workplace Benefit Solutions

RSCC Aerospace

Five Guys Burgers and Fries

Telephone Network Technologies



Harvard Pilgrim

Auto Desk

Cross Insurance

Centrix Bank


Office Resources

Granite United Way




About this Contributor

Carol Robidoux

PublisherManchester Ink Link

Longtime NH journalist and publisher of ManchesterInkLink.com. Loves R&B, German beer, and the Queen City!

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