Full STEAM Ahead from Middle School to P-TECH

"Building bridges" from middle to high school: Full STEAM Ahead Summer Academy/NYSTA

“Building bridges” from middle to high school: Full STEAM Ahead Summer Academy/NYSTA

Students enrolled in Riverside High School’s inaugural P-TECH program had lots of questions for officials after a recent New NY Bridge presentation at the Hudson River Museum.

Last September, the Yonkers school welcomed 40 ninth-graders into its augural New York State Pathways in Technology Early College High School program. Within six years or less, they’ll earn high school diplomas and up to 30 college credits toward an applied associate’s degree in either engineering and/or computer technology from Westchester Community College.

It began the previous summer during Riverside’s first Full STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math) Ahead Summer Academy, whose “building bridges” theme symbolized crossing the bridge from middle to high school.

“They represent our first cohort of students,” said Principal Dr. Don Solimene. “It’s a comprehensive program that readies them for the job market and for STEM careers.”

Now in its second year of seven, the program received a $2.8 million grant for 40 students during each of six years.

What’s interesting, Solimene added, is that students can learn something in one class and apply that learning differently in another class. “They can study something in science and then write about it in English class, and then build it in engineering class,” he said. “First-year students take all their classes together and eat lunch together,” which builds camaraderie and support, he said. Students are also required to complete a monthly minimum of six hours of extended learning time.

Students begin college courses in ninth grade, when they participate in work-based experiences with Riverside’s industry partners through mentoring, workshops, job shadowing programs and internships. “By that second year, they’re not all in the same classes, and by the third and fourth years, they can choose their classes,” explained Solimene.

Since their fall visit to the Tarrytown Outreach Center and viewing area, the students learned that the new bridge’s main span towers are more than halfway to their full height, significant pier work was completed, and more than 1,000 road deck panels were placed atop girder assemblies. When project officials explained that its chamfered tower slanted away from the spans so snow and ice wouldn’t fall onto the roadway, one student said it would fall into the opening where future rail might be built.

“They notice these things,” said science teacher Kelly Jakab of the students’ astuteness.

Students from P-TECH program at their school’s recent atrium display/submitted photo

Students from P-TECH program at their school’s recent atrium display/submitted photo

Two years ago, in March 2014, Riverside High School was recognized by Yonkers Mayor Mike Spano as Yonkers’ School of the Month for “helping its students compete for and win the type of new economy jobs we’re trying to attract to Yonkers.”

The P-TECH curriculum aligns with the New York State Common Core Standards and addresses college pre- and co-requisites, as well as workplace readiness skills with business partners Verde Electric Corporation and the Yonkers Chamber of Commerce, and higher education partner WCC. Additional business partners are HRM, IAC Applications, Manhattan College, Monroe College, Yonkers Chamber of Commerce and Yonkers Contracting.

One student project Jakab described involves making passports for aliens. “They’re taking data and creating IDs for aliens for time travel to different planets,” she said. Another project is making a calendar for the planets in our solar system and how time on one planet relates to time on another planet.

“They’ll come into class and want to work on science when it’s not a science class,” Jakab added. “They love figuring things out.”

P-TECH engineering students learned about truss bridges in class, then researched, sketched and built their own. They’re part of a display in the school’s atrium with projects highlighting hands-on, interdisciplinary and STEAM activities created by students in the day and after-school programs. “They like making things and wanted to stay after to hear more about the (new bridge) project,” Jakab said of the museum presentation.

Graphic design students studying an English language arts unit about Edgar Allen Poe were given an empty “bare book” and had to write and illustrate an original story in Poe style, she said.

All displays and artwork was put on display May 19 at the school.

WCC’s engineering technology department partnered with the Yonkers School District in 2013 to create a P-TECH program in architecture at Saunders Trades and Technical High School, when it was one of 16 schools awarded a first-round NYS P-TECH grant. That program launched in September 2014 with its first cohort of 40 students.

My article originally appeared in Yonkers Rising May 20, 2016.

Copyright © Janie Rosman and Kaleidoscope Eyes 2016

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