focus on stem

City offers new STEM summer program to hundreds of students

PHOTO: Stephanie Snyder

The city is offering 1,200 students a new opportunity to participate in free summer programs focused on science, technology, engineering, and math, Chancellor Carmen Fariña announced Thursday.

The summer STEM program will be available to students finishing second, seventh, and ninth grades — with 400 seats per grade — and will be hosted at sites throughout the five boroughs. It fits in with Fariña’s focus on stopping summer learning loss and on a few grades that she sees as crucial to a student’s success, especially seventh.

For students to be ready for third grade, Fariña explained after visiting second- and fifth-grade classrooms working on projects at P.S. 307 in Brooklyn’s Vinegar Hill, they must be reading at grade level, which STEM projects can help with in an interactive way. The fifth-grade class Fariña visited, for example, was in the midst of giving small group presentations for inventions like a wristwatch that monitors the blood-sugar levels of diabetic patients.

Seventh grade, Fariña said, was crucial to engage students who often get “disenfranchised from school” at that age, start dropping out, and have “a lot of social-emotional issues.”

And in tenth grade, Fariña said the goal is to give the students a more technical STEM education so that they will “decide that they not only want to go to college, but many of them may want to major in these areas.”

The city will give priority to high-needs students with good school attendance, an interest in science, and parents that will support their participation, Fariña said. City officials said they would also encourage students attending schools in the city’s School Renewal turnaround program to apply, along with English language learners and students with disabilities.

Chancellor Carmen Fariña visits P.S. 307 in Brooklyn’s Vinegar Hill.
Chancellor Carmen Fariña visits P.S. 307 in Brooklyn’s Vinegar Hill.

The summer pilot program, which Fariña said could be extended as after-school programs next year, has a price tag of $2 million, which will be paid for with public funds and a $500,000 grant from Microsoft through the Fund for Public Schools.

The NYU Polytechnic School of Engineering is providing curriculums for the seventh- and tenth-grade programs, which include topics like robotics, urban development, and sustainability. The second-grade program curriculum, which combines STEM concepts with other elementary science topics, was developed and implemented by the Boston Museum of Science and New York Hall of Science.

Ben Esner, the director of K-12 STEM education for the NYU Polytechnic School, said the school is committed to training 500 city teachers to bring engineering and technology into their classrooms over the next five years. (The school led a series of STEM programs for students over the last two summers called STEM Now, which Fariña lent her support to last July.)

A second-grade student at P.S. 307 in Brooklyn does a STEM-focused experiment manipulating water in class.
PHOTO: Stephanie Snyder
A second-grade student at P.S. 307 in Brooklyn does a STEM-focused experiment manipulating water in class.

The summer program will be led by 65 city teachers, and 40 instructors from the NYU Polytechnic Center for K-12 Education will provide support.

Applications for the programs, which run for four weeks for second-graders and five weeks for seventh- and tenth-graders, will be available later this month.

Weekend Reads

Need classroom decor inspiration? These educators have got you covered.

This school year, students will spend about 1,000 hours in school —making their classrooms a huge part of their learning experience.

We’re recognizing educators who’ve poured on the pizazz to make students feel welcome. From a 9th-grade “forensics lab” decked out in caution tape to a classroom stage complete with lights to get first graders pumped about public speaking, these crafty teachers have gone above and beyond to create great spaces.

Got a classroom of your own to show off? Know someone that should be on this list? Let us know!

Jaclyn Flores, First Grade Dual Language, Rochester, New York
“Having a classroom that is bright, cheerful, organized and inviting allows my students to feel pride in their classroom as well as feel welcome. My students look forward to standing on the stage to share or sitting on special chairs to dive into their learning. This space is a safe place for my students and we take pride in what it has become.”

Jasmine, Pre-K, Las Vegas, Nevada
“My classroom environment helps my students because providing calming colors and a home-like space makes them feel more comfortable in the classroom and ready to learn as first-time students!”


Oneika Osborne, 10th Grade Reading, Miami Southridge Senior High School, Miami, Florida
“My classroom environment invites all of my students to constantly be in a state of celebration and self-empowerment at all points of the learning process. With inspirational quotes, culturally relevant images, and an explosion of color, my classroom sets the tone for the day every single day as soon as we walk in. It is one of optimism, power, and of course glitter.”

Kristen Poindexter, Kindergarten, Spring Mill Elementary School, Indianapolis, Indiana
“I try very hard to make my classroom a place where memorable experiences happen. I use songs, finger plays, movement, and interactive activities to help cement concepts in their minds. It makes my teacher heart so happy when past students walk by my classroom and start their sentence with, “Remember when we…?”. We recently transformed our classroom into a Mad Science Lab where we investigated more about our 5 Senses.”


Brittany, 9th Grade Biology, Dallas, Texas
“I love my classroom environment because I teach Biology, it’s easy to relate every topic back to Forensics and real-life investigations! Mystery always gets the students going!”


Ms. Heaton, First Grade, Westampton, New Jersey
“As an educator, it is my goal to create a classroom environment that is positive and welcoming for students. I wanted to create a learning environment where students feel comfortable and in return stimulates student learning. A classroom is a second home for students so I wanted to ensure that the space was bright, friendly, and organized for the students to be able to use each and every day.”

D’Essence Grant, 8th Grade ELA, KIPP Houston, Houston, Texas
“Intentionally decorating my classroom was my first act of showing my students I care about them. I pride myself on building relationships with my students and them knowing I care about them inside and outside of the classroom. Taking the time to make the classroom meaningful and creative as well building a safe place for our community helps establish an effective classroom setting.”


Jayme Wiertzema, Elementary Art, Worthington, Minnesota
“I’m looking forward to having a CLASSROOM this year. The past two years I have taught from a cart and this year my amazing school district allowed me to have a classroom in our school that is busting at the seams! I’m so excited to use my classroom environment to inspire creativity in my students, get to know them and learn from their amazing imaginations in art class!”


Melissa Vecchio, 4th Grade, Queens, New York
“Since so much of a student’s time is spent inside their classroom, the environment should be neat, organized, easy to move around in but most of all positive. I love to use a theme to reinforce great behavior. I always give the students a choice in helping to design bulletin boards and desk arrangements. When they are involved they take pride in the classroom, and enjoy being there.”

moving forward

After Confederate flag dispute at Colorado football game, schools pledge to bring students together

PHOTO: Marc Piscotty
Manual High students.

Acknowledging “we may never have a conclusive picture of what happened,” two Colorado school districts sought to move past a controversy over whether a Confederate flag was displayed at a football game and open a conversation between the two school communities.

The principal of Manual High, Nick Dawkins, wrote in a community letter over the weekend that the visiting Weld Central High School team “displayed a Confederate flag during the first quarter of the (Friday night) game, offending many members of the Manual community.”

Officials from Denver Public Schools and Weld County School District Re-3J released a joint letter Tuesday saying that based “on what we have learned to date, however, the Weld Central team did not display the Confederate flag.” At the same time, it said, multiple Manual eyewitnesses “reported seeing spectators who attempted to bring a Confederate flag into the game and clothing with flag images.”

Going forward, students from the two schools — one rural and one urban — will participate in a student leadership exchange that has student leaders visit each other’s schools and communities to “share ideas and perspectives,” the letter says.

“At a time in our country when so many are divided, we want our students instead to come together, share ideas and learn together,” says the letter, which is signed by the principals of both schools and the superintendents of both school districts.

The alleged incident took place at a time when issues of race, social injustice, politics and sports are colliding in the United States, making for tough conversations, including in classrooms.

Weld Central’s mascot is a Rebel. Manual, whose mascot is the Thunderbolts, is located in one of Denver’s historically African-American neighborhoods.

Dawkins in his initial community letter also said “the tension created by the flag led to conflict on and off the playing field,” and that three Manual players were injured, including one who went to the hospital with a leg injury. He also said some Manual players reported that Weld Central players “taunted them with racial slurs.”

Weld Central officials vehemently denied that their team displayed the flag. In addition, they said in their own community letter they had “no evidence at this point that any of our student athletes displayed racially motivated inappropriate behavior.”

They said district officials “do not condone any form of racism,” including the Confederate flag.

Weld Central fans told the Greeley Tribune that they didn’t see any Confederate flag.

Read the full text below.