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S. Huntington District's STEM Takes a Bow

Silas Woods career academy lauded for its focus and success.

Audience at the STEM celebration at Silas Wood school Friday. Photo Credit: Pam Robinson
Audience at the STEM celebration at Silas Wood school Friday. Photo Credit: Pam Robinson
The South Huntington school district brought together leaders from the corporate, education and science worlds Friday to officially mark the arrival of the Silas Wood Career Academy. And, of course, several hundred students. And a robot.

The middle school focuses on education in STEM--science, technology, engineering and math-- that all its students take. School districts around the country are emphasizing STEM training, as the U.S. Commerce Department recently found that STEM jobs have grown at a rate three times that of non-STEM jobs in the first decade of this century.

What brought the school out to celebrate was its recognition by the Long Island STEM Hub as the first middle school STEM career academy. The hub, a consortium of educators and business people, is led by Brookhaven National Laboratory and the North Shore-LIJ Health System.

Representatives of those two organizations, and others, emphasized the career possibilities to a rapt crowd of students and adults. Several students wore white coats, donated by the health care system, showing their interest in medical careers. Others expressed interest in engineering and other kinds of problem solving. But when a speaker asked students to indicate their interest in various STEM careers, the greatest number said technology.

Superintendent David Bennardo, who is completing his first year leading the district, called the hundreds of students assembled for the celebration, "The best group of sixth graders on Long Island," and praised "the magic happening every day" at the school.

And he credited deputy superintendent Jackie Harris for pulling together different aspects of the program, including corporate commitments. 

She cited the district's commitment to the three R's, "rigorous curriculum, relevance and relationships," needed to make the program work. "It's a program for all kids--special education, ESL, gifted and talented," she said.

Students also watched and voted on videos of scientists explaining the concept of time, a project of the Flame Chalenge at the newly named Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science at Stony Brook University. The center challenges scientists to communicate scientific ideas to 11 year olds, with the winner named in June. The challenge began last year, with scientists asked to explain what a flame is. The students will vote again Monday in classrooms where their choices can be tallied.

Scott Cooper, vice president of human resources for the North Shore-LIJ system, noted the extensive hiring the system does throughout the year and said that he expects the need for nurses to continue to grow.

Kenneth White, manager of educational programs at Brookhaven National Lab, praised the school and said it "is such a model" for others on Long Island and beyond to emulate.

Representatives of Teq, a Huntington Station company that is provides professional development for teachers and the use of technology, brought NAO, its robot that regularly wows adults and kids alike. Though it had a little mishap when it began dancing to celebrate the school, the students oohed and ahhed when it began speaking.

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