STEM program builds excitement in Westmoreland

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WESTMORELAND — More than $20 billion has been invested in upstate New York’s Tech Valley and colleges across the state are placing increased emphasis on science and technology.  Likewise, the U.S. Bureau of Labor indicates that information technology jobs alone are expected to grow 22 percent through 2020.  

And to prepare students for such a future, Westmoreland Elementary School has adopted a new STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) program.  STEM is part of a larger statewide initiative to foster young peoples’ interest in these highly lucrative career fields.

To introduce and expose the program to the community, the school district invited the Amazing Nano Brothers Juggling Show, an educational comedy duo from the Boston Museum of Science, to perform for the classes of both the elementary and middle schools.  The “Nano Brothers” have put on family-friendly performances at various schools and museums to facilitate kids’ understanding of physics, technology, and nanoscale forces.

Elementary School Principal Mary-Anne O’Connell applauded the show as “super high-energy” and explained that the students were “thoroughly entertained and learned a lot about science.”  

She described the performance as having the goal of “visually showing kids how small nanotechnology really is.”

The meat of the new STEM program, however, is performed in the classroom.  

The elementary pupils are being exposed to the foundational concepts of science in a hands-on manner by engaging in classroom activities that demonstrate the ideas in a way that kids can easily understand.  Students from all grade levels in the elementary school are exposed to these activities.  

For example, students have experimented with the concept of mass by using a balance and weights of various sizes.  The students were given a classroom object and had to match the weights on the opposite side of the balance to the weight of the object, equalizing the balance.

The STEM activities are different from a conventional science class in that most of the material is based on experience rather than textbook learning.  

The students are exposed to a variety of subjects that apply to the STEM acronym.  

The elementary school has also expanded the scope of the program by partnering with the Vernon-Verona-Sherill Central School Future Farmers of America program and engaging in what teachers call “cooperative extension,” which involves multiple classes and teachers coming together to tackle STEM material. 

Principal O’Connell said she hopes the STEM program will be beneficial to students in a job market that has been placing increased emphasis on science and technology-related fields.

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