Paul Duke STEM High School was established in 2018 in the Norcross Cluster of Gwinnett County Public Schools. As a choice school, students have an incredible opportunity in electing to come to the one and only STEM-themed high school in Gwinnett County Public Schools. There are no special qualifications, requirements, or applications; students only need to live in the cluster or be granted a permissive transfer to attend Paul Duke STEM.
STEM at PDS
Schools choose to present STEM in a variety of ways. Paul Duke STEM engages students in a challenging STEM curriculum, giving them the chance to take courses that are not found at other, traditional high schools. We do that in five ways:
- Project Based Learning
- Design Thinking
- STEM Pathways
- Advanced Placement
- Senior Experience and Exhibition
Using Project Based Learning as their primary instructional tool, teachers implore students to use Design Thinking to solve complex and interrelated problems. After navigating a course of study which includes options for nine STEM pathways, over twenty Advanced Placement classes, and a Senior Experience and Exhibition (SEE), students graduate ready for any post-secondary option they choose, whether that's college or career.
PBL and Design Thinking
What is Project Based Learning (PBL)?
Project Based Learning is a teaching method where students learn by engaging in meaningful projects while solving complex problems. Effective PBLs begin with an authentic Driving Question. The purpose of a PBL is for students to answer the Driving Question as fully and completely as they can by working collaboratively with each other, researching real-world issues and solutions, and creating a product. At Paul Duke STEM, we have three schoolwide Driving Questions per quarter. The Driving Questions for the 2021-2022 school year are below:
Every teacher at Paul Duke STEM begins with one of these Driving Questions as the basis of every Project Based Learning experience. They tailor the schoolwide Driving Question to fit the curriculum of their class in order to make a classroom Driving Question. A student may be answering the same schoolwide Driving Question in two different classes, but he or she may be answering it in different ways depending on the content of a particular class. This compels students to make connections throughout different content areas.
After being introduced to the classroom Driving Question, students spend time answering that questions as fully as they can. The teacher provides learning experiences that allow students to collaborate with each other, research real-world issues, and build solutions. After their build, students present their project to a public and authentic audience for feedback. Depending on the question being answered and project being done, the audience could be composed of doctors, engineers, financial advisors, artists, designers, programmers, industry professionals, parents, teachers, or other students. The audience gives students meaningful feedback so their learning can continue after the project concludes.
Paul Duke STEM is committed to using Project Based Learning as its primary instructional tool because it is an engaging way to get students to learn deeper. By its nature, PBL allows students to be exposed to adults outside the school building and to careers they may have not known existed. PBL puts students in charge of their own learning, and through authentic and real-world experiences, helps them to become lifelong learners and not simply receivers of information.
What is Design Thinking?
While Project Based Learning is the primary instructional tool at Paul Duke STEM, Design Thinking is our schoolwide problem solving process: a human-centered approach to problem solving where the end user is the most important stakeholder. Design Thinking is embedded in PBL; while students are engaged in a Project Based Learning experience, they are compelled to solve problems using the Design Thinking process.
At Paul Duke STEM, Design Thinking process is broken down to its parts using the acronym DESIGN:
The process gives students a road map of the journey to creating solutions that put empathy for the end user first. Authentic and real-world problem solving requires solutions that take all stakeholders into account.
What are Paul Duke STEM's Pathways?
Students who complete one of Paul Duke STEM's nine STEM Pathways receive professional level instruction on industry standard equipment and can earn certifications that give them college and career opportunities unlike those at traditional high schools. These Pathways are divided into three programs that you can see on the table below. Click here for a more detailed view of these pathways.
When students enter Paul Duke STEM, they are given the chance to begin a Pathway in one of three programs: Engineering & Robotics; Communication, Art, & Design; or Digital & Innovative Technology. Each Pathway gives students a focus for their years at Paul Duke STEM. At the end of a Pathway, students can complete one or more End of Pathway Assessments which can lead to industry-standard certifications that prepare students to be successful employees right out of high school. For instance, Cybersecurity students take the CompTIA Security+ Certification Assessment. This exam opens doors to careers in cybersecurity otherwise closed to high school graduates. Additionally, Paul Duke STEM offers assessments in Adobe products like InDesign and Premier Pro, the Unity Associate assessment for Game Development, and engineering assessments from NOCTI.
Advanced Placement and the Senior Experience and Exhibition
What is Advanced Placement (AP) at Paul Duke STEM?
Advanced Placement is a program that offers college-level content and examinations to high school students; the purpose of AP is to help students reach higher levels of understanding on particular topics while earning credits that can be applied to most colleges and universities.
Paul Duke STEM offers the AP Capstone program, a rigorous and challenging course of study for students interested in careers in medicine, engineering, or scientific research. In the 2020-2021 school year, we were one of only 10 GCPS schools to have students earn an AP Capstone diploma. This year, we hope to have approximately 60 students complete the program. Click here for more information on the AP Capstone program at Paul Duke STEM.
AP classes are challenging, but they are not limited to students who plan on attending the most exclusive colleges and universities. We are offering 24 AP classes for the 2021-2022 school year, so there are oppotunities for all our students to challenge themselves with one or two AP courses throughout their high school career. These courses include many that are taught at most other high schools like AP Biology, AP Literature, and AP World History. Additionally, we offer some courses that are slightly more specialized like AP Music Theory or or AP 2D Art & Design.
What is the Senior Experience and Exhibition (SEE)?
The Paul Duke STEM Senior Experience and Exhibition (SEE) is a comprehensive internship program students complete in their last year that allows them to engage in real work and then showcase that work to a large and diverse audience. Located at the intersection of school and life outside of school, the SEE program was created to give students the chance to live in a world after high school before graduation. The program is made up of many different parts, and students have the option to participate in one of them:
- Off-campus traditional internship
- On-campus internship
- Work-Based Learning
- Dual Enrollment
For more information on SEE at Paul Duke STEM, click here.