A valuable university partnership provided Yonkers Public School students with exciting STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) experiences this summer designed to inspire their interest in these fields, as well as to contribute to their overall academic achievement, while their teachers worked on their own professional skills to enhance teaching and learning.
District teachers, together with partners from Fordham University and Columbia University’s Teachers College, developed Camp S.M.A.R.T. and the STEM Learning Lab, a series of cross-curricular experiences connecting the sciences, technology and literacy with investigative and problem solving skills. The university partners worked with teachers and students during the morning camps, and then reviewed practices with the teachers in the afternoon.
“Adults don’t parse out their thoughts when they see a problem. We don’t look at a math problem, or a science problem and think only in terms of those subjects to find a solution,” said Amanda Curley, the District’s Executive Director of Instructional Support. "We draw from all our experience, from all our knowledge to find an answer. Camp S.M.A.R.T and the STEM Learning Lab provided our children an educational environment where we could teach them how to do that.”
How students learn was at the heart of the Science, Mathematics, and Research for Transformation program, or Camp S.M.A.R.T. For instance, kindergarten through grade six students facilitated their own learning and understanding of the world by using mobile technology to interview their teachers about their own schooling, and then editing and producing their findings into a newscast.
Seventh and Eighth grade participants in the STEM Learning Lab tackled some of the big issues impacting our diverse, interconnected world. Working as a research team, the students explored the adaptability of living creatures to changes in their environment, such as climate and water pollution.
They also explored their own capacity for critical thinking when Lincoln High School Biology teacher Priscilla Pizarro drank from a container of what she described as water cleaned by sewer lice, which “purifies sewage by digesting it, leaving clean drinking water.” Immediately getting their attention, she explained the “lice” were actually a handful of raisins in her drink.
“You want teachers to encourage students to be engaged and curious in ways that they might not otherwise be thinking about,” remarked Judy Mayer, one of the STEM program advisors. Their curiosity aroused, Ms. Pizarro’s students proceeded to explore different ways to positively impact the environment. Their final project, along with the rest of the Summer STEM projects, was presented to the delight of teachers and parents at Fordham University on July 30th.
Our students weren’t the only learners attending Camp S.M.A.R.T. and the STEM learning lab. Working with the educators from Fordham and Columbia universities, Yonkers Public Schools teachers were immersed in professional development that gave them specific tools and approaches to bring to their classrooms in September. “This program has been amazing, not only for our students, but us as educators,” explained Teronnie Bronfield, a Yonkers Middle/High School special education teacher. “The professional development from this program has given me a chance to … get myself comfortable with this technology, and show me how to best implement it with my students during the year.” See you in September!