WESTFIELD – The third annual STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) Week, the Baker-Polito statewide initiative to boost students to be able to see themselves as STEM scientists and mathematicians, is scheduled for Oct. 19-23.
“This year the theme is to see yourself in STEM. STEM careers are growing, but diversity and inclusion are not growing at the same rate,” said STE Supervisor Lauren Figy at a recent meeting of the Westfield Education 2 Business Alliance (WE2BA).
Figy said there are thousands of STEM careers that are growing and changing every day. “What a first grader might see by high school might be completely different,” she added.
Figy said she and Westfield Public Schools Math Supervisor Kate Perez have been working hard with a committee of teachers, and have planned some exciting activities for the week, which in Westfield is called STEAM, adding art to the equation.
“As a district, it’s something we thought was really important, to have teacher input on the committee to plan some events. A lot of the events are teacher created,” Figy said.
Westfield schools are also partnering with the Pioneer Valley STEM Network, led by Westfield State University Professor Jennifer Hanselman, dean of the College of Mathematics and Sciences. As part of the network, they will be bringing supplies to the remote learning centers at the Boys & Girls Club and the YMCA, including pencils, pencil sharpeners, colored pencils, playdoh and a variety of STEM stickers.
Another project they are collaborating on is scientific drawing.
For example, elementary and middle school students will be able to submit their drawings to WSU and the PV STEM Network for a showcase, led by Jason Ramsey, a Bio-Mimicry professor. “The way our kids are participating is through drawing a STEM activity, and uploading a picture or video of what STEM means to them,” Perez said.
Middle School students, who have a robotics program, will be participating in a program with Dell Technologies, asking them to explore the potential of the technology-human relationship by using engineering to design an adaptive device for persons with paralysis. This effort is also being supported by experts from the Bionic Project, a Cambridge-based organization that promotes inclusive environments.
At the high school level, a virtual career panel week has been scheduled for tenth to twelfth graders, with an expert in each discipline on each of the days. Students are filling in a form with questions before the hour-long webinars, which will talk about science, technology, engineering, math and medical careers, in collaboration with the new MassHIre Career Center Counselor Jonah Badiab.
Perez said a high school art teacher on the committee also wants to incorporate scientific drawing into the high school program. “Hopefully, some of the students will go to the career panel, and phase two will be a self-portrait, having art students project themselves into one of the fields,” she said.
Fort Meadow principal Joanne Hentnick is also planning some events for preschoolers at stations in the parking lot. One of the ideas is to use a catapult with some pumpkins. “She’s still working out the details,” Figy said.
The PV STEM Network is kicking off the week for high school, community college and university students with a very special event called “Ask Me Anything: A Conversation with Former Astronaut Cady Coleman on Oct. 15 at 6:30 p.m., moderated by WSU students.
Westfield schools’ English Language Arts Supervisor Mary Keane connected elementary students to Coleman’s visit with the book “Ada Twist Scientist.”
“We have a recording of the book done by an astronaut in space, and a literacy activity that goes along with it about the qualities of a scientist, what you need to do to find answers to questions, and scientific inquiry. We connected it to WSU with Cady Coleman coming. Hopefully, these kids when they write questions, we’ll be able to give them to Cady Coleman,” Figy said.
Both Figy and Perez said that some ideas are still being worked on. Teachers may also upload their activities to the PV STEM network site.
“We talked about kicking things off during STEM week, but we want teachers to work on them all through the year. We are hoping to have some STEM events throughout the year,” Perez said.
“That’s the way the state is viewing it this year,” said Figy. She said one of the challenges is that not all of the students will be back in school. “Usually, there are hands-on components to STEM Week. We’re trying to still give those opportunities to do those (projects), so they can do them virtually,” she said.
Figy said there are also some added opportunities to this year. “We have an awesome career panel, speaking with people who don’t live in the area. This whole experience has made us more comfortable with technology. We’re more comfortable with the T in STEM,” she said.
“STEM Week in Westfield is a wonderful way to highlight the hard work of our teachers and students. Our goal in Westfield is to help all students to “see themselves in STEM” everyday, not just for a week in October. By incorporating the arts and ELA with science and math we are able to provide interdisciplinary learning for students,” added Superintendent Stefan Czaporowski.