Huntington school superintendent James Polansky raised the idea of setting up a STEM--Science, Technology, Engineering and Math--program at the Board of Education meeting Monday night.
After he and others described their visit last week to just such a school in Hartford, Conn., Polansky raised the possibility of basing it at Jack Abrams Intermediate school. That building has been closed to regular classes for the last two years because of some parents' fears about crime in the neighborhood.
Patch talked with Polansky Tuesday about the idea.
Question: What is the plan, or is there a plan, to actually set up a STEM program?
Answer: The idea is in its beginning stages. We are in the process of gathering information on and from successful STEM programs/schools, as there has been much attention given to the need for an increased focus on science, technology, engineering and math education in the United States – particularly in the younger grades. (We just happened to have visited a well established program in Connecticut on 10/15.) The goal is to ultimately establish a rigorous, engaging and inquiry-based program. We have a building that is available (JAS), so the plan does include the idea of establishing this building as a STEM magnet, which would make it an attractive educational choice.
Q.: What age/grades?
A.: If the idea were to come to fruition, we would begin with several grade levels in the primary/intermediate spectrum.
Q.: What timetable are you considering?
A.: Part of the attraction associated with the STEM and magnet option is that there are some federal and private grants available to help defray start-up costs. While we would like to consider the idea for next September, funding would factor into determining the timeline. We also wish to make certain that such an idea would be carefully planned and implemented, involving input from vested factions within the school community. This would play a role in determining the ultimate timeline as well.
Q.: What are some of the key hurdles?
A.: Again, the financial hurdle is likely the steepest.
Q.: What is the value of a STEM program?
A.: As mentioned above, schools in this country are routinely criticized for not focusing enough attention or designating enough time to STEM instruction and activities that promote inquiry, critical thinking and problem solving.
Q.: Can you explain just a bit about the federal financing/grants that would help make this work?
A.: We will be searching for opportunities to secure grants that will help us to address start-up costs and professional development for staff members.
Q.: What problems does this solve or what advances does this make for the district?
A.: This provides us with a genuine opportunity to institute a valuable instructional program, while providing an attractive choice for parents and students. It would also offer us the opportunity to make use of a building that is well suited to house such a program.
Q.: Who thought of this?
A.: The idea resulted from many conversations that have been held on the topics of STEM instruction and a magnet school environment. Keep in mind that such a school would also provide instruction in English language arts, social studies and the other disciplines, but the idea would be to build the curriculum around STEM. It would not remove the responsibility of preparing students for state assessments, but the primary focus would be on authentic, high quality learning experiences.