By Dr. Richard Canfield, Superintendent of Schools
In the midst of celebrating the town’s 375 years, 2014 also heralded the opening of the Sandwich STEM Academy. I felt it was appropriate to document the story of The STEM Academy, as it becomes part of a proud tradition of excellent schooling in Sandwich.
Part Four: Parents and Community Members become involved….
Gil Newton continued his work on growing the program, and through the superintendent’s Parents Council, a STEM Parent Advisory group was formed. I provided the parents with unprecedented access to work with Mr. Newton and Dr. Ellin Booras, principal of Sandwich High School. The parents, led by Mrs. Becky Milburn, met with Mr. Newton and played a pivotal role in communicating with other parents, and supporting program development efforts through a variety of outreach activities, including an evening presentation to town officials. They hosted a contest to select a mascot for the Academy and the Squires became a befitting metaphor for the future Blue Knights. Working with the PTAs from each school, they also funded two wonderful bonding experiences through day-long activities at Camp Bournedale.
Mr. Newton formed a STEM Advisory group, led by Eban Franks of Liquid Robotics. This talented group of professionals from a variety of STEM related fields, including higher education, and public and private research organizations, contributed their ideas and resources to strengthen the program. They helped to organize a submersible robotics club months before the academy opened, so students could experience the challenge of hands-on, project-based problem solving. A final competition was held using the pool at the Sandwich Lodge & Resort. The club will use the newly renovated high school pool for this engineering unit and for competition.
The advisory group knows that the academy forms the keystone of the districts PreK-12 arch that is modeled after the logo from the Partnership for 21st Century Teaching and Learning; a business and education conceptual framework for the STEM initiative. Middle school years tend to be an ideal time to engage the minds of early adolescents. Robotics opportunities for the high school will allow student to continue their interests in this STEM field.
To provide balance within the STEM program, another advisory group is focused on the Arts and Humanities, and includes artists, musicians, authors and architects. They are committed to helping students see the connections between the arts and sciences.