Archive for the ‘Heathcote Elementary School’ Tag

STEM Education and Building the New Bridge

Rebar sample is much heavier than it looks/NNYB Outreach

Eastchester parent Beryn Corham’s son came home excited from school. “He couldn’t wait to tell me what happened that day at assembly,” she says. And teachers are thrilled too. According to Westchester teachers, nothing makes a kid’s eyes open wider than holding a piece of rebar (reinforcing steel) like that used in the new Governor Mario M. Cuomo Bridge or a strand from one of the stay cables that support the main span roadway.

Educational Outreach

Magic definitely happens when the New NY Bridge Project’s educational outreach team brings the state’s largest infrastructure into classrooms. During the past five years, the team has visited more than 60,000 students in the tri-state region and made hundreds of presentations to Westchester students, providing opportunities to see and feel construction materials and safety equipment and get them thinking about STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields.

Each year the educational outreach program focused on specific aspects of the project.

• Year One (2013-14): Discovery/Geo-tech of the Hudson River
• Year Two (2014-15): Building a Strong Foundation
• Year Three (2015-16): Teamwork and Innovation
• Year Four (2016-17): Bridge Rising

“Looking back, whether it was explaining bridges to a kindergartener or answering complex questions from a high schooler, the real joy was seeing students make the connection between information and understanding,” Public Outreach Coordinator Andrew P. O’Rourke, Jr., says.

With Groups and Clubs

The New NY Bridge Project’s educational outreach team can tailor presentations to specific groups and clubs as they did at the WizGirls conference hosted by American Association of University Woman Westchester (AAUW) that encourages girls to explore engineering and computer science.

NNYB Project Director Jamey Barbas and WizGirls/NYSTA

“WizGirls is an offshoot of AAUW Westchester’s Explore Your Opportunities conference for seventh-graders at the College of Mount St. Vincent in Riverdale that explores all four STEM fields,” program leader Diona Koerner says.

Female scientists lead hands-on workshops and serve as role models for the students. “We chose this [age] group to attract the girls early when they’re still interested, and they’re excited about it,” Koerner continues. “Last year we had a huge response.”

New NY Bridge Project Director Jamey Barbas explained tension and compression to a group of sixth- and seventh-grade girls during a fall 2016 WizGirls conference, after which they applied their new knowledge by assembling mini LEGO® bridges. “Events like [these] are unique opportunities to bring awareness to young women of careers in engineering,” she says.

Combining Fun and Education

During the project’s early years, White Plains Public Library (WPPL) had a Build With K’NEX! program, in which kids built models of the I Lift NY super crane and the new bridge with the colorful plastic pieces.

“It’s an opportunity for kids, while they’re doing something fun, to gain math and engineering skills, to learn how things fit together – shapes, sizes,” says former WPPL children’s librarian Terry Rabideau. “It’s an opportunity to have fun and be creative.”

When the bridge’s main span towers were being built, the project’s Tarrytown and Nyack Outreach Centers added a mini tower crane challenge: participants had to place the tiny construction crew member on a target below using the crane’s controls.

Dan Marcy, who leads presentations with O’Rourke, notes, “Educators are often looking for real-world applications for what they teach in the classroom. Over the years, it has been remarkable to witness how enthusiastic students have been about this project and how they’ve embraced complicated engineering principles, construction components and problem solving.”

Excitement About Local STEM Events

“Learning doesn’t take place in a bubble, and the various components of STEM overlap,” Chairperson and President of STEM Alliance of Larchmont-Mamaroneck, Meg Käufer, explains.

Julpiter Joe’s Astronomy activity allows kids to control a robtic arm at Larchmont’s Hommocks Middle School STEM event. Photo Credit: Alison Mäertins, 2018

The Alliance’s annual festival at Hommocks Middle School in March drew more than 1,200 kids, teens and adults into three hours of fun and learning. Throughout the free Friday night event, attendees could choose activity stations and pre-registration workshops with STEM challenges including a physics lesson in bridge building from O’Rourke, plus marshmallow launchers and a chess master playing multiple games at once.

The annual Lower Hudson Valley Engineering Expo, which held its 15th Expo on April 15, brings more than 100 engineering firms, engineering colleges and public agencies together to introduce students to engineering and technology careers, according to McLaren Engineering Group President and CEO Malcolm G. McLaren, PE.

This West Nyack-based firm is a major benefactor and organizer of the event that incorporates numerous engineering fields whereas it once focused primarily on civil engineering, according to McLaren.

Attendance has grown, attracting students, colleges and corporations from a large geographic area. One typical and interesting observation was of a student who, initially hesitant to walk through the door, became so absorbed he was reluctant to leave when his mother called to him.

In the Classroom

More than 200 students attended Heathcote School’s March HExpo workshops. “It was hands-on, daylong and feedback was positive,” fifth-grade teacher Christine Boyer says. “The kids loved it and saw it as having fun, digging deeper and learning.” When they were using screwdrivers to take appliances apart, “the wheels were turning, and the learning was happening.”

Teamwork building a LEGO® bridge/C Boyer

“One of the greatest joys was seeing students’ eyes light up after answering their questions because it unlocked the door to knowledge, ignited their curiosity and gave them a personal connection to the project as they watched history rising in their own backyards,” says O’Rourke who participated in the event.

In the STEM program that Claremont Elementary School teacher Micki Lockwood designed for her third- and fourth-grade students at Ossining Union Free School District, the younger grade studies electricity, and the older one studies bridges.

Samantha, a Claremont student, loves stem “because I get to experience science, technology, and engineering and math projects at a very young age,” while her classmate Sienna enjoys the variety of activities. “We have a chance to ask questions, imagine and plan and then we create things and talk about how we can improve them.”

Lockwood’s students used K’NEX and LEGO® bricks to study and build bridges with a special emphasis on the new bridge. “We spent a lot of time focusing on cable-stayed bridges since this amazing project is happening one town away from us,” Lockwood says.

Combining Imagination and Concepts

Technology teacher Anthony Rich introduced 3D design to his students at Greenvale and Anne Hutchinson Schools in the Eastchester Union Free School District by using a web-based program called TinkerCAD about three years ago.

“The fourth- and fifth-graders get a half-year of Coding with a program called Scratch and a half-year of 3D design and printing,” Rich explains. While the older children create their own designs, the younger students are learning program basics and concepts.

Ducky, a fourth-grade student at Anne Hutchinson School in Eastchester, likes 3D printing “because I can create anything I can imagine and I can invent and print new things. It lets you have the ability to imagine, plan, then build anything you want.”
Käufer sums it up nicely. “STEM is important because it gets kids thinking in new ways and changes their thought processes. There’s no minor league for STEM.”

Night before new bridge’s westbound span opened/NYSTA

A Work of Art!

ArtsWestchester celebrated the new bridge as a work of art at its gala 2017 fundraiser last November as CEO Janet Langsam feels STEAM education (adding the arts to STEM) is crucial to educating the next generation of creative thinkers. “Art increases motivation, enhances communication and expression and, like science, it helps inspire innovation and critical thinking,” she says.

For information about outreach presentations, contact Andy O’Rourke at andrew.orourke@newnybridge.com or 845-918-2516 or visit newnybridge.com.

My article was originally published in the May 2018 issue of Westchester Family.

Copyright © Janie Rosman and Kaleidoscope Eyes 2018

“Maker” EXPO encourages Hands-on Learning

A day of projects that were about on STEM and STEAM/NNYB

A day of projects that were about on STEM and STEAM/NNYB

Heathcote Elementary School teacher Christine Boyer was talking about presentations — the HEXPO event at her school last May, and the bridge presentation last fall. This year’s HEXPO happens again in May.

“We had a huge assembly at the start of school in October, and the first trip to the viewing area was in November,” Boyer said. “It was a sunny day, and everyone wanted to see the bridge.”

It was during one of the school’s buddy trips — one 5th-grade class will go with second graders — that the kids got to see how far the project’s progressed just past its 1,000th day (October 15, 2015).

That trip came on the heels of the school’s first HEXPO last May. “It was a great day with lots of people,” Boyer said. LEGO® Master Builder Aaron Tang brought bridge assembly kits he created, a treat for the kids.

“The PTA bought some of the kits for each grade,” she said, “so the kids can build them. Our school is big on social media, and we’ve been following the project on Twitter.”

Some students who went to the viewing area in the fall will return this spring.

Teaming up to build a LEGO® bridge/C Boyer

Teaming up to build a LEGO® bridge/C Boyer

“We talk a lot about documentation, and this way the kids take pictures and hold them side by side to see the changes,” Boyer said. “Some of our second graders who go next year as third graders will have that reference when we discuss it.”

Last year she organized the first Maker Expo — featuring hands-on learning and technology workshops that included 3D animation, design, building, LEGO® robotics and animation — to compliment the school’s “maker” philosophy.

“The Maker movement brings more engineering into schools,” she said. “We’re trying to highlight this curriculum, and even the kids in kindergarten are interested.”

Some of the students working in the Maker Space at Heathcote never held a screwdriver before, she said. “Now they’re saying, ‘Righty tighty, lefty loosey’ to remember which way to turn it.”

Next year, those kids will see the first span of the new 196,416-inch long bridge open to traffic. Now that’s a trivia question for you.

I’d like to know what you think.

Copyright © Janie Rosman and Kaleidoscope Eyes 2016

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