Top Houston schools take hands-on approach to teaching STEM subjects

HOUSTON, TX (KTRK) -- There's a lot of energy in the halls of Houston's Harmony High School. If you step into a classroom, the hands-on approach - in some of the most challenging subjects -- is unavoidable.

One Harmony High School student said, "It's easy to open up a text book and read about it and let the teacher explain to you, but it's something more and different to actually have hands-on and learn about it."

The focus at the school is on STEM - science, technology, engineering and math. The U.S. will have more than 1.2 million job openings in those areas by 2018.

"A teacher can tell us all day odor causes color change, but if we can't see it we can't conceive it," another student said. "When we see it, right here it's like, 'Wow, chemistry is pretty, and it's very fun'."

At Harmony Schools, the joke is that the annual science fair is prom.

Dr. Soner Tarim, a founder and superintendent of Harmony Schools, said, "At Harmony, being a nerd is fun."

High schools in the system have been ranked tops from the Washington Post, Newsweek, and U.S. News and World Report.

Tarim said, "Culturally, math and science subjects among our youth are known to be difficult subject areas."

Since opening its first school in 2000, Harmony Schools has grown to 40 college prep charter schools, and 25,000 students -- but almost twice as many are on a waiting list to get in.

"This is the largest waiting list you will ever see throughout the United States," Tarim said.

With 40 campuses now across the state of Texas, the superintendent remains ambitious with plans to open Harmony's first out-of-state campus this fall.

More than half of the students are considered economically disadvantaged and the superintendent claims a 100 percent graduation rate and a zero percent dropout rate.
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