Middle school STEM program expands

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WEST ORANGE, NJ — The Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics program is expanding in West Orange middle schools, according to a press release from the school district.

Currently the middle school has programs operating in sixth and seventh grade. Discovering STEM is now in its second year at Edison Middle School. Investigating with STEM is in its first year at Roosevelt and Liberty middle schools’ seventh-grade classes, and Designing with STEM will be introduced in the 2018-19 school year for eighth-grade classes.

“The West Orange School district believes a STEM curriculum is an integrative approach of teaching the disciplines of science, technology, engineering, and math,” supervisor of technology and engineering Ryan DelGuercio said in the release.

This approach teaches students to understand the connections between the STEM disciplines in order to most effectively solve real-world problems. Students develop mastery of content through design-based learning, the disciplinary foundation of technology and engineering pedagogical principles with deliberate teaching of the concepts and practices of science and mathematics education.

In Discovering STEM, students are provided with the understanding of foundational STEM concepts that subsequent courses will build upon. Students are exposed to a variety of STEM principles and disciplines.

“The idea for a STEM course here at Edison began six years ago but the groundwork was not laid until Mr. Rutzky came to West Orange as superintendent,” Edison Principal Xavier Fitzgerald said. “During the 2015-16 school year, I asked for some related arts class changes along with a building schedule change that was directed by Mr. Rutzky.

“Edison Middle School moved from block scheduling in 2016-17 to 55-minute periods to emulate both Liberty and Roosevelt middle schools and along the way we were allowed to implement a Related Arts STEM course,” Fitzgerald continued. “The program was immensely well received by the students in the first year and in the second year students still love the activities in the related arts course. I am happy to see the expansion of the program into the seventh grade and in the school year 2018-19 into eighth grade.”

In Investigating with STEM, the curriculum builds upon the foundational skills and concepts learned in the Discovering STEM course. Through the study of more advanced STEM concepts such as principles of flight, roller coaster physics and the DECIDER design process, students will begin to examine the social, economic and environmental impact technology has on society.

When Designing with STEM is introduced in the 2018-19 school year, eighth-grade students will enter this course with a solid foundation of STEM concepts and skills related to design, technology and society, invention and innovation, and problem-solving. The introduction of computer-aided design software to enhance design complexity and basic machines to fabricate project prototypes will equip students to generate solutions to the more complex problems present in a 21st-century global society. Students are also introduced to robotics and basic programming as well.

“We are very excited to have the addition of this hands-on STEM course to our course offerings,” Liberty Principal Bob Klemt said. “Students are fortunate to be able to explore technology and engineering concepts to better prepare them for future career pathways.”

“The STEM courses at the middle school complement the science classes. It is great to see students apply and extend the concepts learned in science to new challenges,” K-12 science supervisor Stephanie Suriano said.

“We would like to thank the Board of Education and especially Mr. Rutzky for having the vision and leadership of developing the middle school STEM program which has already benefited the students tremendously,” DelGuercio said. “The teachers did a great job of designing and implementing a curriculum that engages students with real-world problem-solving scenarios. Students will deepen their understanding of STEM content by arriving at the best solution and integrating content from all the STEM disciplines throughout the design process. The middle school STEM program will prepare students to enter into more rigorous STEM-related courses at the high school level.”

Photos Courtesy of WOSD