Buncombe County Schools K-12 STEM Initiative

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The future will be written by those with the imagination to invent, the confidence to inspire, and the technological skill to turn best dreams into tangible realities. We stand at the start of the next great era of innovation. The students of Buncombe County have the talent and intellect to create new outcomes and advance our economy and quality of life. Buncombe County Schools provides students the tools they need, via curriculum, local industry and college connections, to achieve a better life for themselves and for our community. 

Buncombe County Schools K-12 STEM curriculum offers flexible, adaptable competence in STEM disciplines: science, technology, engineering and math. Hands on learning across the curriculum and real world application through unique partnerships with area industry ensure a connection to our community and economic development. Fostering an ethos of experimentation and creative problem-solving, by which students may devise and communicate solutions to a variety of real-world challenges, Buncombe County Schools strives to integrate science, technology, engineering, and math through a systemic approach using a variety of proven programs and practices.

As a community that fosters innovation and opportunity for our best and brightest, we aim to “Grow our Own.” Through strong partnerships with local businesses and industries, we aim to provide our young people the opportunity to learn and return to our community to work, adding the cutting edge talent and skills that will set our community apart and create a new economic horizon.


A strong foundation in which to build contributes to the success of any program or a student’s success. Ensuring students have a rich background and opportunity for learning and growth provides the building blocks necessary to support a model for a continued integrated STEM curriculum.

Problem-based curriculum is a key component of K-8 science curriculum. Students are engaged with real-life scenarios that require student teams to come up with plausible solutions. The problems allow students to strengthen future-ready skills such as collaboration, critical thinking and communication all within a multi-disciplinary framework that addresses the standards in Science, Math, English Language Arts and Social Studies. 

Through various grants and the support of community partners, Buncombe County Schools has been able to enrich the curriculum through hands-on opportunities and technology. The Education, Workforce and Innovation Fund, has allowed all fifth grade students to be exposed to Project Lead the Way’s Launch Curriculum that correlates with the elementary and middle school standards. Through Duke Energy’s investment, schools were able to re-invent their standard computer labs and create STEM labs and Maker Spaces.

Students begin making connections to their communities through citizen-science opportunities. This cross-curricular effort supports environmental stewardship while building partnerships with the local community. Understanding linkages to the workforce and the relevance of what they are learning becomes key. Students are continuing to build on the standards learned in elementary school and the continuation of Project Lead the Way extends into a Medical Detectives course and an engineering track.

Middle School students have the opportunity to participate in Students@Work week which allows them to visit various businesses and industries to see what careers are available in all curriculum areas. Through Virtual Job Shadowing, a specialized, content driven, technology program students are able to explore STEM careers via the internet. While transportation can sometimes be challenging, this technology tool equalizes access. Making strong connections at this age helps students plan for their high school future.

Helping to extend the walls of the classroom, students can participate in numerous extra-curricular activities. Science Olympiad, Envirothon and robotics competitions allow students to work in teams and build key “workplace ready skill” such as communication, problem solving, collaboration, and public speaking. These competitions add value and compliment classroom instruction.

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STEM education continues in high schools as students plan for their career or post-secondary education. Buncombe County Schools offers a variety of honors and Advanced Placement science courses, both face-to-face and online, that meet graduation requirements and build a strong foundation in inquiry skills, critical thinking, and problem solving to prepare them for success for college readiness.

Career and Technical Education provides numerous opportunities for students in the STEM fields. STEM is embedded in Agriculture, Business, Health Science, Technology and Trade and Industrial Education courses and is extended through work-based learning opportunities, industry recognized credentials and Career and Technical Student Organization. This comprehensive curriculum blends the disciplines and enhances learning for all students.

Buncombe County Schools offers students a school of choice for those desiring a more specialized STEM high school STEM opportunity. Martin L. Nesbitt, Jr. Discovery Academy was designed as a twenty-first century high-tech school featuring interdisciplinary learning and real world application. Students earn college credit and experience work-based learning as part of their personalized curriculum. As a result, this innovative school recently attained North Carolina STEM School of Distinction status in its second year of operation.

Buncombe County Schools is committed to continuous improvement in preparing future-ready public school students for an ever changing global economy.

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For further information contact:
Brian Maccarelli- K-12 Science Specialist: brian.maccarelli@bcsemail.org
Christy Cheek- Career and Technical Education Director: crystal.cheek@bcsemail.org

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