During the multi-school tour, faculty shared students’ projects with industry, education and policy-focused stakeholders of the Delran STEM Ecosystem Alliance, which works to provide students with science, technology, engineering and mathematics skills and exposure to STEM careers.
McGann said the state wants 65 percent of its citizens to have higher-education degrees by 2025, a goal with which the alliance aligns. Additionally, some alliance stakeholders, like STEM Crawl participant Radwell Industries of Willingboro, are looking for more qualified high school and college graduates.
The alliance wants to connect students studying STEM with higher-education institutions, leaders in STEM industries, and more. Instead of waiting until the students are in middle or high school, the district is exposing its students to STEM early on. In the gym on Friday, elementary school students worked with large foam blocks and long cylinders to build imaginary creatures that had some sort of special power.
″(This is) a chance for the children to create, to visualize something, and then work collaboratively to create something that is tangible,” said Jaime Murphy, a physical education teacher and a district sustainability project manager. “They also can incorporate shapes, movement, barriers, cylinders, gears — it’s really an outlet for them in many ways.”
The alliance wants to encourage high schoolers’ creative thinking as well — they hope that in the next few years, the old auto shop will become home to a “digital fabrication lab,” where students can work on 3-D printing, computer design and other technological projects. McGann said time in the lab will teach students necessary skills for solving “tomorrow’s problems.”
Upstairs in the greenhouse and on the adjacent rooftop deck, students taking botany electives are already contributing to their community through hands-on work, composting cafeteria food waste, then using the compost to grow greens for the cafeteria and culinary electives.
Students also keep busy with research, choosing a topic and plant — bok choy, corn and chicken feed are just a few things in the lab. As students’ research goes on, they learn about plant nutrition, pest identification and other botanical factors.
“As long as we keep the STEM process working, the expectation is at the end of the semester they’ll all have scientific data backed up by hands in the dirt,” science teacher Aaron Fiordimondo said.