Twenty George Washington Middle School students are participating in a pilot program featuring specialized instruction at Jamestown Community College's Jamestown Campus.
Based on a Science Across the Curriculum initiative that was first launched at Holy Family Catholic School, the program provides supplemental exposure to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics concepts to a small group of seventh and eighth grade students at Washington Middle School.
"We are very excited to have this wonderful opportunity for our students," said Washington Middle School principal Melissa Emerson. "Any opportunity where our students receive more hands-on experience outside of the classroom is a welcomed addition to the support in the classroom. With the new Common Core Standards and changes in education, Project STEM is another step in the process of preparing our students to be college ready. We are extremely thankful for this opportunity."
After Holy Family School closed in 2012, a committee of area educators and community members interested in STEM programming decided to approach another school to continue the Science Across the Curriculum collaboration. Because of its close proximity to JCC, Washington Middle School was offered the pilot program as an afterschool opportunity for up to 20 students to complement their advanced track studies in physics, earth science, chemistry, and biology.
STEM program participants explore real world applications while expanding their problem solving and critical thinking skills in classrooms and labs on a college campus. Appropriate topics that coincide with regular classroom instruction are devised by JCC's Center for Continuing Education and Washington School personnel. Various instructors present two-hour sessions on topics ranging from genetics, life sciences, electricity, orienteering, mathematics, and topography on a weekly basis.
Exposure to STEM-related careers, hands-on activities, and college readiness are among the additional benefits that STEM program participants can obtain.
"All of us involved in the Holy Family STEM program are thrilled that JCC and Washington Middle School have worked together to continue this important program for our community," noted Lillian V. Ney, a member of the community STEM committee. "Helping students develop an excitement and passion for STEM subjects and giving them increased confidence to pursue these subjects in their high school years will clearly help prepare them for college and open up the potential for a STEM-related career, which is important both locally and globally.
"JCC has many outreach programs," added Dr. Ney, "but this weekly program targeting middle school students is among the groundbreaking efforts starting to be utilized nationally to improve competency in STEM education. Our community is very lucky to have such a special asset as JCC."
If the pilot program is effective, a self-sustaining model funded through private and foundation support could be developed for future students at Washington Middle School as well as other schools.