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Newton’s News – June 2014

Monthly Newsletter from Gil Newton, Director of the STEM Academy

by Gil Newton, Director of the STEM Academy


I’m very pleased to report this month that the STEMabrations were a major success. With perfect weather and an excellent facility at Camp Bournedale, all our 6th and 7th grade students met for the first time with their new STEM teams and teachers. The students quickly made new friends from across the district and were actively engaged in several team building activities that were instructional and fun. In addition to these outdoor recreational games, the students attended a class taught by one of the camp counselors. The Marine Lab was a popular choice, particularly for those who were willing to do a dogfish dissection. The students in Rocketry designed and built their own rockets and learned about physical science concepts such as gravity, mass, lift, and drag. Several students learned traditional songs and dances in the Native Culture class and also created a traditional native toy.The students in Pond Study measured water chemistry from a pontoon boat on Herring Pond. The kids who enrolled in Geocaching used GPS locators to find hidden objects around the campground. And for the artists in the group the students took a Ceramics class which gave them the chance to work on a design and painting project.

It was clear that the students, teachers, staff, and parent volunteers enjoyed both days to get together as a new school. We launched new friendships and experiences as well as rockets on those two memorable days.

Many Thanks…

Once again I want to thank the STEM Parents’ Task Force, the K-8 PTA’s, and all the teachers and administrators who helped make the STEMabrations a success. I don’t want to overlook the important role of the 6th and 7th grade teachers in Sandwich. Thank you for preparing and sending a wonderful group of children to the STEM Academy. You have been a significant influence in helping prepare these students for this important transition in their lives. I appreciate the time you gave me to speak to your classes and your continuous support for opening the STEM Academy. I would like to correct the spelling of a name in last month’s Newton’s News. Beth Cummings-Oman served on the Athletic Advisory Board. But Beth has also been very helpful as a member of the STEM Parents’ Task Force, assisting us with all of our projects this year. Thank you Beth for all your help and support. I have been informed that the Forestdale Student Council has donated $2,000 to the new STEM Student Council. I thank the dedicated students for their generous donation in helping us with the new school.

Our Advisory Boards…

The final meeting this year of the Arts and Humanities and Science Advisory Boards took place on June 12. Several teachers from art, science, and engineering spoke about their programs and curricula. The advisory boards were very successful in helping the formation of a number of initiatives and to begin the development of partnerships between the STEM Academy and community organizations and businesses. The projects included a Remotely Operated Vehicle series of workshops, a climate change program with the Manomet Center for Conservation Science, an outreach program with the Palmer Long Term Ecological Program station in Antarctica, and a student play on bullying with the Harwich Junior Theatre and the Cotuit Center for the Arts. I had the pleasure of attending this student designed production at the Cotuit Center and was very impressed with the students’ enthusiasm and creativity. The students created their own presentations, music, dance, and video to address the serious issue of bullying. My thanks to English teacher Debbie Morris, Cotuit’s Lenore Lyons and Harwich’s Tammy Harper for working with these 7th grade students. Other activities for next year are already in the planning stages and these will come to fruition once the Academy opens. We now have over 40 professionals from business, government, community organizations, and higher education who have offered to lend their expertise in a variety of ways.


As we make our final preparations for the opening of the STEM Academy, this is a good time to reflect on our vision and expectations for next year. We are establishing a middle school that focuses on developing 21st century skills including collaboration, problem solving, creativity, and the use of technology. Our students will be learning in teams for their core subjects while expanding their experiences in art, engineering, health and wellness, foreign languages, and a choice of electives. The teachers will be employing methods in inquiry and project based learning which will provide a high level of student engagement, student choice, and authentic driving questions. Research in this field shows that students will be better prepared for high school, college, and careers, and that their retention rates for content increase. The kids will have the opportunity to develop their communication skills and take responsibility for their own learning.

Most importantly we want to motivate all of our students to learn. There is a path to success for each of them, and it will be up to us to help each student along that journey to success. I have often said that I want the STEM Academy to be able to seize the imagination of every child and to reignite that curiosity and sense of discovery that each student possesses.

I can think of nothing more important than providing the best possible education for each of these 7th and 8th graders. With that closing thought I wish everyone a safe and joyful summer with your families and friends. Gil Newton, Director, Sandwich STEM Academy

NOTE: A new edition of “Newton’s News” is published at the district website every month. You can read the newsletter at

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