STEM is the future: Top programs unlock kids’ exponential potential

STEM — science, technology, engineering and math — is at the center of the Mayor Bloomberg’s efforts to diversify the city’s economy following the financial crash of 2008.

By   (courtesy nydailynews)


Fourth-graders Gabriela Franco (left) and Briana Luna learn science concepts  at Public School 15 in the Bronx.

A class of 28 first-graders at New Explorations Into Science, Technology and  Math School in Manhattan stood next to their desks Thursday morning and  karate-chopped the air as they counted to 100 by 10s.

“Ten!” Punch!

“Twenty!” Punch!

“Thirty!” Punch!

The gifted kids in the class attacked their math lessons with enthusiasm,  taking a quiz of 40 additional questions in one minute before tackling the  counting drill.

NEST teacher Jennifer Rosenfeld said stoking the kids’ manic energy by  getting them moving during math lessons keeps their interest in the subject  high.

“Kids do better in math when they move around,” said Rosenfeld. “It warms up  their brains and they perform better on tests. It keeps them excited.”

These children are barely old enough to tie their own shoes, but city  elementary school kids are foot soldiers in the high-tech STEM revolution.

STEM — science, technology, engineering and math — is at the center of the  Mayor Bloomberg’s efforts to diversify the city’s economy following the  financial crash of 2008.

It’s also the basis of a nationwide push to transform education, from the  primary grades to graduate school, away from the humanities and toward the  sciences.

New York City’s public schools are leading the way — and elementary students  are where the transformation begins, said the Education Department’s chief  academic officer, Josh Thomases.

“The early grades lay the groundwork for the future,” said Thomases. “It’s  best to get students comfortable with science and math from a young age.”

At all levels, city schools are beefing up their offerings in math and  science.

The city has created 22 new technical education high schools, with seven  more coming next year. Officials also plan to transform 20 additional high  schools and middle schools into specialized STEM academies.

And at the elementary school level, officials have rolled out hundreds of  STEM programs at elementary schools, including dozens where laptops have gone  out for free.

Science teacher John Hagan Brown  brings enthusiasm, and a doctorate in cell biology, to his high-energy class at PS 15.

Ben Chapman/New York Daily News

Science teacher John Hagan Brown   brings enthusiasm, and a doctorate in cell biology, to his high-energy class at  PS 15.

Scores of city elementary schools have added math and science training to  teachers’ professional development programs. Dozens of schools have added  after-school tutoring in the subjects.

The efforts have paid off: City scores on national science and math  assessments have risen since 2006, while statewide scores fell, Thomases  said.

The push is apparent at NEST, where all kids get weekly computer lessons and  fourth-graders use digital notebooks on loan from Sony to take notes in  class.

“Children learn by doing,” said NEST Principal Olga Livanis. “They stay  engaged. They need something to show for their efforts.”

Most of the kids at NEST, where admission is determined by how kids perform  on a competitive exam, have access to computers at home and highly motivated  parents who help them stay on top of technology.

But the STEM revolution has made it to less-advantaged schools as well. At  Public School 15 in the Bronx, half of students don’t have access to computers  or smartphones in their homes.

But the challenges faced by the community have only heightened the  determination of Principal Tara Edmonds to prepare her kids in math and  science.

PS 15 has intensive classes in both subjects for all students, a computer  lab, math coaches and other resources that helped it outperform the city average  on math and science tests.

“We keep up the pressure on math and science, and we’re making progress,” said Edmonds, a Bronx native who graduated from Brooklyn Tech. “These kids need  to learn math and science to compete in the global economy.”

The passionate math and science teachers at PS 15 help keep kids motivated  about the subject, said Dupree, even though the students don’t all come from  tech-savvy families.

John Hagan Brown is one such teacher. Brown has taught at PS 15 since it was  founded in 1995 and holds a doctorate in cell biology. He conducts research at  Yale two nights a week and also moonlights as a professor at Mercy College  medical school.

His greatest priority, though, is teaching third- and fourth-grade science  at PS 15. “These kids could be left behind otherwise,” said Brown. “We can’t let  that happen.”

Brown uses hands-on classroom experiments to teach science whenever possible  and is quick to use real-life examples to illustrate scientific concepts.

His high-energy teaching style thrills his young students, who learn science  without even realizing they’re doing something that could help with their  future.

“I just like learning about science,” said Briana Luna, 10, a fourth-grader  from the Bronx, who used a scale to weigh objects and explore the concept of  density in class on Thursday. “Dr. Brown makes it fun.”


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This entry was posted on June 2, 2013 by in SCITECH, WOMEN IN TECH, YOUTH.

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