Principals from China visit the STEM Innovation Academy of the Oranges

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ORANGE, NJ — Orange has found a way to reach out to different cultures internationally. For the first time ever, principals from Fujian Province, China, visited STEM Innovation Academy of the Oranges, as part of the Fujian Province High School Principals Delegations on Thursday, Jan. 16.

Focused on learning about the STEM curriculum and new educational strategies utilized at the STEM Academy, 21 visiting principals, along with one translator, wanted to observe how the school approaches STEM instruction, how the school is outfitted technologically and speak with some of the teachers about their experiences and practices.

Attending the event were principals from across the Oranges, including Faith Alcantara of Heywood Avenue Elementary School, Jason Belton of Orange High School, Jacquelyn Blanton of Orange Early Childhood Center, Dana Gaines of Orange Preparatory Academy, Karen Machuca of Scholars Academy, Robert Pettit of Cleveland Street School and many others.

Overseeing the event was Superintendent of Schools Gerald Fitzhugh II, who explained how the event came to fruition.

“Dr. Erica Stewart, principal of STEM Innovation Academy of the Oranges, received a call and subsequent email from Paul Frank from the Mid-Atlantic Technology Forum,” he said in a quote sent to the newspaper on Friday, Jan. 17. “As a result of the email, the principal partnered with Dr. (Tina) Powell, director of Mathematics, STEM and Science, as well as the superintendent of schools, to plan the event for the dignitaries. His purpose, as well, was to observe students in the biochemical, mechanical engineering and computer science tracks. We also shared with the visitors our calculus, as well as our digital media courses.”

As the main facilitator of the event, the Mid-Atlantic Technology Forum is an organization that arranges delegations from China to visit the United States, in an effort to promote cross-cultural education and international exchanges.

Its goal is to promote technology throughout the region and beyond through the development of informational programming and educational resources. The efforts of Mid-Atlantic Technology aren’t designed to copy organizations but to develop new strategies to highlight the increasing research, collaboration and opportunities within the region for future generations.

Through the organization, the Chinese delegation arrived in New Jersey for several meetings, including one at the STEM Academy, and other engagements throughout the state and in New York City.

According to Fitzhugh, the 21 principals arrived in the United States on Monday, Jan. 13, and visited the STEM Innovation Academy of the Oranges Thursday, Jan. 16, from 8 to 11 a.m. During the program, they visited a host of college-level engineering classes.

The delegates then had the opportunity to engage with students and teachers. There was a question-and-answer segment, where the delegates were able to speak with teachers and students about the understanding of rigorous concepts, as well as the overall STEM curriculum.

During the event, Powell explained the STEM Innovation Academy of the Oranges’ instructional tracks for grades nine through 12. She discussed the dual enrollment opportunities on which students have embarked, as well as the balance between academic expectations and the need for extracurricular activities. In closing, she explained that STEM is now a grade nine to 11 program.

The superintendent gave insight into what’s to come for the academy regarding this meeting with Fujian Province and said the visitation provided an opportunity to expand thinking as leaders and educators.

“As superintendent of schools, I felt that the visitation provided an opportunity to expand our thinking as leaders in instructional practices,” Fitzhugh said. “In addition, the dignitaries also requested that we continue these conversations and possibly have our team from the Orange Township Public School District travel to the Fujian Province to view their instructional practices. It is necessary to partner with educational minds throughout the world, in the effort of remaining innovative.”

Next year, the academy is expanding the program to grade 12. The students who will then be seniors will be the first graduating class from the STEM Innovation Academy of the Oranges.

Photos Courtesy of Joan Purkiss

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