Delta High School will receive a $19,000 state grant to help schools develop and integrate their own curriculum with science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM.
State officials named Delta High, in Richland and jointly operated by the Richland, Pasco and Kennewick school districts, as one of six STEM Lighthouse Schools, according to a release from the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction.
"It's actually kind of like a coaching contract," Principal Deidre Holmberg told the Herald.
Delta High has 340 students from throughout the Tri-Cities and will graduate its first class of seniors this spring. Learning is project-based, and STEM education is woven into all subjects.
Educators have said STEM education is critical to ensuring students are prepared for future careers, especially with the demand for engineers and other workers in high-tech fields.
It's the first time Delta High received the designation since the state superintendent's office began awarding it in 2011.
West Valley Junior High School in the West Valley School District in Yakima County was the only other district east of the Cascades to be recognized this year.
"These Lighthouse schools are doing great things for STEM education," state Superintendent Randy Dorn said in a release. "The work they do will benefit classrooms across the state."
Four to six schools visit and tour the school each month to learn about STEM education and how to bring it into their classrooms.
"Teachers at Delta get used to a lot of folks coming through their classrooms," said Jenny Rodriquez, a social studies teacher at the school.
The grant will primarily pay for staff time to help other educators to develop their STEM programs, whether it be going over the basics of the model, developing contacts with businesses in STEM fields to putting together a curriculum personalized for a school. But it's also a sign the school is a resource for anyone wanting to learn about STEM education, Holmberg said.
"This will give us a little more street cred," she said. The school's teachers also will be asked to attend education conferences to talk about their school and its programs, according to state officials.
Rodriquez said the grant also will pay for a summer conference Delta High's teachers are planning for interested educators.
Delta High was involved in spreading STEM education even before the grants were announced. Holmberg and Rodriquez worked with staff at Virgie Robinson and Emerson elementary schools in Pasco last year to integrate STEM education into not only math and the sciences but also social studies.
And efforts to promote STEM education help the school in another way: interest from Tri-City students has been climbing each year. Holmberg said she has 600 applications out in the Richland School District alone.
"I've never had to make so many copies," Holmberg said.