Port school district addresses STEM challenges

Port school district addresses STEM challenges
Port Washington school Superintendent Kathleen Mooney. (Photo from portnet.org)

This year, several North Shore school districts had at least one of their students named a semifinalist for the Siemens competition in math, science and technology. The Port Washington School District was not one of those school districts.

The district’s performance in 2017 has drawn criticism from some members of the community.

But district Superintendent Kathleen Mooney said she is more concerned about the recent expansion of science, math and technology programs than the performance of individual students in competitions.

“The District’s success– and the success of our students– are not defined by the number of Siemens semifinalists we have each year,” she said. “Our success should be measured by the challenging, demanding courses we offer based on new SED science, math and technology standards.”

A year ago, the New York State Board of Regents adopted new standards that put an emphasis on science and engineering, with a student-driven approach.

The board had expected schools to begin preparing for these new standards during the fall of 2017, and the Port Washington School District has already gotten started.

Although the highest-level competitions like Siemens are for high school students, these new science and technology programs are also available for children and adolescents attending middle school and elementary school.

One such program is Project Lead the Way for third grade students at John Philip Sousa Elementary School. Students are given kits from which to construct simple machines that can make everyday tasks easier.

This approach, the school district said, allows children to be creative while encouraging critical thinking and working together.

At Carrie Palmer Weber Middle School, a similar hands-on program seeks to teach students about aeronautics and the physics of flight. Students in this course will get to experience flying remote controlled aircraft, or drones, and learn about some practical applications for these machines. 70 students have already signed up for the course.

Both Weber Middle School and Paul D. Schreiber High School have unveiled new science rooms in the past year.

Schreiber already had courses in math, science and technology, but a new elective was added this year called Introduction to Electronics and Electronic Engineering.

The course will teach students how to code circuit boards and use that coding for practical applications.  The class is taught by Frederick Feldmann, who also teaches “Introduction to Engineering Sciences Honors” and an intro STEM class for freshman students.

“Students are finding their own futures through a new way of learning and new opportunities in the classroom,” Mooney said in a school statement.

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