STEM offerings as good as college, DV teachers say

DV students get straight-to-work experience on real-life projects, collaborate with engineers and designers

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  • Tom Moran, Amanda Pope, and Christine Marcial present the many facets of DV's STEM programs to school board members (Photo by Anya Tikka)

By Anya Tikka

— Teachers say STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) offerings at the Delaware Valley School District compare favorably to offerings at colleges and universities.

And their students are already putting their skills to use, working with engineers and architects to restore buildings at Grey Towers, and using laser technology to make trail signs for the new Watershed Park in Port Jervis.

They're not stopping at STEM. DV will soon be adding an "A," for arts— that's because design is a crucial component in technical projects and requires a more artistic background.

DV offers a wide range of STEM classes that prepare students for entry into the workforce and college, said teachers Amanda Pope, Christine Marcial, and Tom Moran during a recent presentation to the school board.

Moran covered the many hands-on educational options available to students that lead straight to in-demand jobs, like being able to program machinery, work in a forensics lab, or design a virtual reality program or game.

Real-life projectsCurrent engineering construction classes, often working across curricula with physics or career tech classes, have students designing and making objects from start to finish. They’ve already been working in collaboration with local community organizations, such as the Grey Towers restoration project in Milford, or signs for the new Port Jervis Watershed Park and for the upcoming turntable project, also in Port Jervis. All require precision engineering and output, working with the project architects and engineers.

The courses include construction and manufacturing in all phases, and all involve math, Moran explained.

The calculations and designs use all kinds of different software and real numbers, "like they build in manufacturing," Moran said.

Architects and engineers come back and forth to check the designs.

Making signs for the Watershed Park is "an amazing venture," Moran said. "Students are taking names of the trails, and then they are fed in the machine."

The students will use laser engraving to make about 60 signs, with the park bound to grow, he said.

Moran said Grey Towers approached the school about its building restoration.

"Their engineers and architects were onsite, walking around with the kids, taking measurements, taking pictures, sending them here," he said. "The kids do all the drawings here in school, going to Grey Towers two to three times to get pictures, and then end up with our set of drawings of the buildings. This will last several years.”

Grey Towers has 12 outbuildings to cover, and DV aims to do one building per year.

He said restoring the turntable in Port Jervis is a lot of work and involves telling the story of its history.

“They came to us with the concept, and their measurements," Moran said.

The project has yet to be taken to the city council in a request for money, he said.

Turning proAll the classes and projects, from middle to high school, use very high-end programs, including CAD.

“They impress us, some of the stuff they turn out," Moran said. "We look at them, and it’s amazing."

Board President Pam Lufty was full of praise.

“It’s wonderful," she said. "They have many opportunities.”

Board member Cory Homer said a recent visit to Rutgers University "shows how advanced we are. Also at the local community college, people want cyber security, and have a self contained network, where people can introduce viruses, and work on it — it’s amazing.”

The district offers every STEM course available, the presenters added, something that doesn’t happen in every school district.

Winning at scienceThen there's the science department.

Women in Science competition participants went to Massachusetts, where they faced different challenges. They also took part in a symposium in Lackawaxen Sanctuary, where they had an opportunity to network.

Marcial, a math teacher, computer programming classes. The school has several clubs, from elementary school on, that compete around the area.

At a senior science research seminar on engineering design, students can elect an individual project whole year. There’s also an engineering club.

“The level of performance grows exponentially," said Pope. "They went to competitions and won many first prizes.”

Students won second-place prizes at two state-level competitions.

Last year, the program started a partnership with the Pocono Environmental Education Center in Dingmans Ferry. Students attended a day devoted to green ecology and did volunteer work there.

The maker’s space in engineering room got special attention from presenters and board members. There, students can do digital design, and then use applications like 3D printers and other tools.

“I’ve never seen anything like that before," Pope said.

In a forensic crime scene investigation unit, students really get real-life experience and also real college credits.

“They get into it, to try to put together the story to solve the crime,” Pope said.

A new Advanced Placement chemistry lab was rebuilt and redesigned two years ago, but other classes and programs also need work.

After the presentation, board members praised the programs. Lutfy suggested board members arrange a daytime visit to see "what’s going on there during the day.”

Superintendent John Bell exclaimed: “It’s really crazy to see how many kids are doing these classes.”

“They impress us, some of the stuff they turn out. We look at them, and it’s amazing."
Tom Moran

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