With the help of students and a robot, Huntington school superintendent James Polansky outlined his plan this week for a school focused on science and technology.
A large turnout of parents and others heard Polansky and other educators explain the need for a greater emphasis on STEM subjects-- science, technology, engineering and math--that would prepare youngsters for future careers. Critical thinking complex problem solving are key components of the program.
"The STEM magnet school will...help our students gain the 21st Century skills required to succeed in today’s global and technologically driven society," Polansky said.
The program, which depends on the approval of the district's application for a $12 million federal grant, could open by September, using the empty classrooms of Jack Abrams School.
Students would be chosen for the magnet school by lottery, drawn from the third, fourth and fifth graders of each of the district's four primary schools. District students who currently attend private schools are also eligible to participate in the lottery.
Polansky said the benefits of the program would not be limited to students at magnet school, while noting that it is not a gifted and talented program.
"Students will learn to see all knowledge as connected rather than artificially separated into discrete disciplines," he said. "Authentic project-based learning will enable students to see connections between subjects and connections between what they are learning and the world around them."
Teq, a Huntington Station company that provides professional development for educators, is consulting with the district on implementing several aspects of training. Company representatives guided students in a demonstration of skills needed to discover, measure and evaluate the results of tests of small catapults.
While the STEM program would include blocks on science and engineering concepts, with technology embedded in other lessons, the district said it would not lessen its emphasis on literacy skills.
"It's important that we emphasize continuation of literacy programs, developing strong readers and writers," said Dr. Kenneth Card, assistant superintendent. "In terms of STEM, we will remain focused on strong reading, writing and comprehension skills," he said.
Parents brought numerous questions to the forum, asking about teacher preparation, the effect on existing classes, the lottery process and more. The district will send out program applications to parents, with a return date of May 15.
The Thursday evening presentation was the second of the day; another two are set for Wednesday at 10 a.m. and 7 p.m., at Abrams. All district residents are welcome to attend.