Spotlight on Cutting-Edge High Schools Embedded in STEM Workplaces

Spotlight on Cutting-Edge High Schools Embedded in STEM Workplaces

Over the last few years, the United States government has sought to improve the country’s global economic competitiveness by emphasizing the importance of high-quality education in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). This emphasis has led to many innovations and improvements in STEM education. As a result, hands-on, interactive STEM education has started to become the norm at the college and K-12 levels, with the top ranked K-12 STEM programs in the United States excelling at providing both science and math education to children across the country.

Recently, a unique model for providing high-quality STEM education has grown in popularity. The approach embeds STEM schools into STEM workplace locations, providing a cutting-edge experience for students. In New York, two high school programs currently offer this model. One program at Aviation High School focuses on the aerospace industry while the other, Brooklyn STEAM Center, concentrates on integrating STEM education with business and the arts. Read on to learn more about these two programs.

Aviation High School


In 1995, Aviation High School in Long Island City, New York, established a presence at the John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK), where students have hands-on opportunities to develop the skills necessary to someday become an aircraft technician. Graduates of the school have gone on to become aviation maintenance technicians, engineers, and mechanics, among other careers. The aviation program, which is certified by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), provides students with access to a Boeing 727 aircraft on which they can practice various skills related to aviation technology. Students graduate with the minimum of an FAA license, with some receiving a second one at the end of a competitive fifth-year program that takes place exclusively at the JFK site.

In addition to aviation maintenance technology, departments at the school include mathematics, science, social studies, physical education/health, and English. Advanced Placement courses are available in English, calculus, environmental science, chemistry, physics, world history, and other areas. Blending a technical education with a traditional academic curriculum enables students to pursue a variety of career paths after graduation. While some seek college degrees and others pursue military careers, many more obtain employment directly out of high school. Due to its unique model, Aviation High School has drawn significant attention from the media and has been profiled by CNN, CNBC, NPR, and VOA.

In the 2017-18 school year, Aviation High School statistics showed that over 2,000 students were enrolled, with almost half of them being non-Asian minorities, who continue to be underrepresented in the STEM workforce. With a 97 percent attendance rate, students displayed their exemplary motivation to learn. Ninety-five percent of students graduated in four years, and 97 percent of them graduated in six years. With a 96 percent attendance rate, teachers also demonstrated a strong dedication to their students.

Brooklyn STEAM Center

Brooklyn STEAM center

Located at the site of a former Brooklyn Navy Yard, the Brooklyn STEAM Center places an emphasis on integrating STEM education with business and the arts. The school offers several specialty areas to students, which include computer science/information technology, construction technology, culinary arts/hospitality management, design/engineering, and film/media. Students from eight local schools enroll in these special half-day programs for the final two years of high school. Students spend the morning at their local high school and the afternoon focusing on their chosen specialty at the STEAM Center. Some of these specialties offer the opportunity to become licensed in a chosen field.

The school’s close proximity to more than 400 mostly technology and manufacturing companies in the former Brooklyn Navy Yard offers students real-world experiences. The STEAM Center also provides internships and work placement for students. This access to professional development opportunities is vital for students, many of whom are from groups that are underrepresented in the STEM workforce. Minorities represent approximately 93 percent of students enrolled in the STEAM Center. Many students at the STEAM Center are also part of another underrepresented group in the STEM workforce—people with low incomes—with 74 percent of students qualifying for free or reduced-price lunches.

The school’s new facility on the third floor of the former Brooklyn Navy Yard opened in early 2019 with 221 students enrolled. Built at a cost of $17 million, it represents an investment of over $75,000 per student. Such an investment illustrates the importance of STEM education to the New York City Education Department. One of the school’s founders is a member of the New York State Board of Regents, lending even more credence to the educational experiment that the school represents. Furthermore, the school’s advisory board primarily consists of leaders in the industries that it teaches, highlighting the balance between the academic and workplace experience that the school strives to foster.