The PS 676 STEAM room opening event took place on January 24, but it was a day that had been in the works since the start of the school year. STEAM refers to science, technology, engineering, arts, and math, and Red Hook Elementary School recently made strides in improving its teaching in these areas, culminating in the opening of a enhanced lab with robotics and 3D printer.
Principal Priscilla Figueroa has made many new community partnerships, improvements and classroom additions to the school since its takeover about two years ago. Figueroa was hired with the intention of bringing 676, the lowest ranked school in District 15, along with the more reputable public schools. It is a difficult process, but grants from the city council and the office of the president of the borough have helped. Representatives of the two spoke at the event.
City Councilor Carlos Menchaca, who has represented Red Hook since early 2014, shared how much he loved seeing the kids at PS 676 using their creativity to write code and work with the robots in the STEAM room. He also admired the fish they care for in their new 10 tank aquarium.
“We have come together to make this happen, but I want to tell you something about how such things happen,” Menchaca said. “When you have an idea, I want you to say it out loud and tell your parents and teachers because your ideas can come true. This is what happened today. The more you say your ideas, the more real they become.
Principal Menchaca and Felipe Adams of the Borough President’s office, along with students, posed for a photo as the tape was cut. Adams said it has been a pleasure to fund this project and urged all students to take advantage of what is available to them.
“The president of the borough really believes that if you invest in a STEAM program, anything to build your future is an innovative path to follow,” he said. “When I was your age, we didn’t have this in our classrooms. I say enjoy, learn as much as you can and teach your parents. Thank you to Principal Figueroa and to the teachers who invest in you.
Figueroa gave viewers – or at least those familiar with the latest high-tech jargon – an idea of what was in the play. “We have a kebo box, we have cubes, we have the Ozobot, we have two of the Nao robots. We have a SMART Document Camera, in addition to a lab disc, which allows us to collect data on what we are doing. It centers on collecting scientific data that we can use to teach our students how to use numbers and how to understand them. It is to reinforce what they are learning.
After the STEAM room opening ceremony, eight and nine-year-olds experimented with robots with Mr. Marcus as an instructor. He taught them to program the robots to go in a straight line.
“The goal is also to learn by trial and error,” Marcus explained. “Sometimes they might not get the right degrees or the right number of rotations, but we tell them it’s okay because they’ll go back to the program, rewrite the program, so they can figure it out until let them do it right. “
The school was also able to fund new Promethean boards, not only for the STEAM room, but for the library and each classroom. The Promethean Whiteboard is an interactive whiteboard that can project an image from a laptop computer, and it allows interaction with the board through a touch screen.
Kids have already started using Promethean Boards to log into the Glogster website, where they are working on a wildlife advocacy project.
“This is integrated, so it incorporates a lot of science that they have to learn, and within that, they learn to stand up for animals and the community,” Figueroa said. “They are learning how they can defend marine and aquatic animals and their habitat and connect it to Red Hook as well as the aquarium here.”
A student, Jing, decided to research oysters and wrote about their lifespan and where they are. She chose oysters because none of her classmates had any, and because of her school’s connection to the nonprofit Billion Oyster project, which made her want to find more information about the creatures. She also likes aquarium crayfish because of their resemblance to lobsters.
Figueroa thanked Menchaca and Felipe Adams for their funding. She also thanked District 15 Superintendent Anita Skop.
Skop told the PS. 676 children that they are incredible and make her proud every day, calling them “future leaders”. Skop added that District 15 believes in the school.
“When I was little, the only time I saw elected officials was on TV,” Skop added. “Knowing and working with people who care so much about our city and who support our schools in a real way means so much. I can’t tell you how proud I am. Coming here, it is a welcoming and exciting place.