At the Edgemont Union Free School District Board of Education meeting Oct. 15, Director of Technology Paul Garofano presented his department’s vision for the science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics (STEAM) initiatives, with a planned expansion of the curriculum into seventh and eighth grade in the 2020-21 school year.
A rollout of STEAM units began in 2017 with a fifth-grade computational thinking course, sixth- and seventh-grade robotics courses, and eighth-grade robotics and coding courses.
After site visits to schools in West Nyack and White Plains, Edgemont faculty decided to use Project Lead the Way (PLTW), a nonprofit organization that provides STEAM-based curriculum.
“Students were up moving, engaged, problem solving together, collaborating together,” Garofano said, referring to what he experienced at the site visits. “It was student-centered. The teacher was there as a facilitator. They were really exciting learning environments.”
In the 2020-21 school year, seventh-graders for the first 10-week semester would take a design and modeling foundation class and then would take 10 weeks of a class offered by the district, which could include computer science for innovators and makers, medical detectives or energy and the environment in their second semester.
Eighth-graders would take a full year of two PLTW courses, which could include automation and robotics, app creators, or green architecture.
“Project Lead the Way is a foundationary curriculum,” said Garofano. “We will have some flexibility depending upon what direction we want to take that course in.”
By the 2021-22 school year, sixth-graders would be eligible to enroll in one 10-week PLTW course, seventh-graders could enroll in two 20-week PLTW courses and eighth-graders would take three 13-week PLTW courses throughout the entire year.
Seventh-graders would have one of their study hall periods replaced by a PLTW class.
“These classes, especially at the junior high level, are not homework intensive,” said Garofano. “It is technically replacing a study hall, but what a great opportunity. Who wouldn’t want to take one of these classes?”
Teachers conducting the PLTW courses will become certified through required three- to five-day intensive classes.
In terms of budgeting, Garofano said the greatest expense would be the hiring of an additional technology teacher.
“All of the equipment [and] the certification costs I can very easily put into the technology budget,” he said.
Garofano said the district has a lot of the equipment necessary and that a larger expenditure would include getting a seventh-grade class set of PC laptops.
The technology department would eventually like to expand their STEAM program to kindergarten through grade 12, although school learning space is a hindrance.
“This is going to be a substantial initiative for now. We want to see how successful it’s going to be,” said Garofano. “We’re already struggling for space here on [the high school] campus, so adding more classes you’re going to need more space.”