BLOOMFIELD, NJ — Lou Cappello, superintendent of science K-12 at Bloomfield High School, will oversee STEM activities for grades kindergarten to five beginning in September. The position for the lower grades is new to the school district. STEM is an acronym for science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
Cappello has been in the school district for 14 years and last year he served as its science supervisor. He received his certification from North Carolina State University and his master’s in administration and supervision from Montclair State University. In his supervisor role, Cappello no longer has teaching responsibilities.
STEM is already part of the curriculum throughout the district but Cappello said with the implementation of the Next Generation Science Standards coming with the 2017-2018 school year, STEM activities will be embedded in course work and bring engineering problems and thinking to the forefront.
“The Next Generation Science Standards allows students to define a problem and come up with a solution,” Cappello said at the high school last week. “Kindergartners may work on recycling. There will be more critical thinking than before.”
It is hoped that by exposing the youngest students to STEM they will develop an interest that will stay with them. Although not in every school, Bloomfield has all the STEM programs that the school district has to offer. Makerspaces, which are collaborative work spaces where students can gather to create, invent and learn, already are used in Bloomfield elementary schools. Additionally, the district has family science nights, a STEM and robotics club and a 3-D printer at the high school in addition to a 1:1 Chromebook initiative at Bloomfield Middle School and, beginning in 2017-18, at Bloomfield High School.
Cappello said a successful STEM program is one in which a student recognizes a flaw in the solution to a design problem.
“In real life, engineers go back to the drawing board,” he said.
The BHS STEM and robotics club regularly competes against other northern Jersey schools, constructing simple working models to design problems. At a recent competition, the problem was to construct an earthquake-resistant building.
Working in teams, the students made small models from ordinary materials such as cardboard and soda straws. Testing was done on a springboard. Cappello said STEM does involve student competitions but more importantly it involves student collaborations.
“Letting students figure things out on their own is a big component of STEM,” he said. “We are excited to bring STEM to the forefront and create uniformity through all grade levels.”