Since the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) will play a critical role in domestic and global economies, the school decided to include the track when it designed the academy, whose other tracks are Scholars, Humanities, and the Arts.
Students specializing in STEM education follow an integrated curriculum that prepares them to enter competitive STEM fields, school officials said.
The new classroom facilities include large electronic smart boards, upgraded computer capabilities, and specialized seating for group collaboration work.
“The STEM initiative is a response to the growing demand for high school graduates to prepare for expanding careers in biomedical engineering and computer sciences, as well as countless more opportunities in math and science-related fields,” said Superintendent of Schools Patricia McGeehan.
This thinking is in line with a recent U.S. News & World Report story that said that the majority of future jobs will come from STEM-related fields, according to School Business Administrator Leo Smith Jr.
“It’s not just having regular English, math, and science,” said Curriculum Administrator Dennis Degnan. “It’s integrating all of them. It’s not just an engineer now; you’re a biomedical engineer.”
The aptitudes and skill sets of STEM-level students are evident by their participation in school programs and county-level science fairs and competitions, according to Degnan.
“Many other people come in and give awards,” he said, including private companies.
Renovations of the academy wing classrooms were ongoing over the summer, and improvements were made to classrooms that hold electives that are open to BHS students not in the academy. They include courses in engineering, physics, computer science, dance, choir, and acting.
The upgrades to the House 6 area of the high school will pay dividends beyond the obvious one of readying for the STEM program, school officials said. They are updating classrooms to give them a 40-year life expectancy.
Costs are held down, Smith and Degnan said, because school maintenance employees and summer students are hired, rather than outside contractors.
“We’ve decided to build from within,” Smith said. “Ninety percent of the work done on this job is done in house with our own people.”
The school officials said the computer science room was equipped with resources for coding, applications, and Java, not the more ordinary Excell or Microsoft Word.
“It’s more like a programming-math related computer science,” Degnan said.
A big part of the STEM program is the partnering with local businesses to fund the various projects. Becoming “patrons” of specific programs, which means a $50,000 donation, are: CarePoint Health, for the Biological Discovery Center, or “BioDome”; International Matex Tank Terminals, the Engineering Program; and Bayonne Community Bank, the Computer Sciences program. CarePoint made a $50,000 donation for the BioDome in June.
“Whatever we’re doing, it’s earmarked for a specific area,” Smith said.
The BioDome, an approximate 18-by-36-foot room, will house fish, reptiles, and small animals of other types in a climate-controlled setting. Students not enrolled in the academy will also have use of the room when scheduling permits.E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.