By Peter Elacqua
COLTS NECK – Seventh grade students from the Cedar Drive Middle School showed the potential of a new course to Colts Neck K-8 School District administrators and members of the public during a recent Board of Education meeting.
Pupils in teacher E. Marc Ceo’s Automation and Robotics class made their presentation in the middle school media center on Feb. 3.
For one marking period, each middle school student will have a science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) course through Project Lead the Way. The change is new to the district for the 2015-16 school year.
Sixth-graders will have one marking period of Design and Modeling; seventh-graders will have one marking period of Automation and Robotics; and eighth-graders will have one marking period of Medical Detectives.
In Design and Modeling, pupils will create virtual images of designs for structures such as playgrounds and furniture.
In Automation and Robotics, pupils will learn about mechanical systems, energy transfer, machine automation and computer control systems.
In Medical Detectives, pupils will learn how to analyze genetic testing to diagnose diseases and study DNA evidence.
The presentation at the board meeting began with opening remarks by Katie Hill and Cassidy Friend, who completed the robotics course during the first marking period of the 2015-16 school year.
Katie spoke about the design process, which includes developing solutions to the problem people face. She described how the students had to create blueprints of their project before they began to build it.
“I thought all of the projects we built throughout this course were a ton of fun,” Katie said. “I enjoyed this class because all of the activities we worked on were hands-on and challenging. This class taught me there would always be a problem you were faced with and had to figure out a way to solve it.”
“When I was first asked to present (a talk) to the board about the robotics course I was nervous and excited,” Cassidy said. “I wanted to share my experience in this course with others because it changed how I saw things around me. The course opened up opportunities I had never even thought about. Before this class I had never thought about a possible career in engineering or design, but when I saw how easily it all came to me I decided this may be something I want to do for the rest of my life. I realized there was so much more to coding and inventing that I had ever known.”
Members of the public were able to view the students’ projects.
“I have been a middle school teacher for 22 years and I never had children as engaged as I do in this robotic STEM program at Cedar Drive,” Ceo said. “The excitement and energy is contagious. The kids are so excited to be here. They come from outside of class to continue to work on their projects and they are building things of high quality.
“They are learning perseverance, teamwork, troubleshooting and problem solving. … I was amazed to see how many (students) volunteered (to speak before the school board) even knowing this would not affect their grade. It goes into the realm of art. These projects were imagined, sketched in exacting detail and put together. I think seeing something you imagine come to life in front of you is very rewarding,” Ceo said.
“This is an example of great things our district could do,” Superintendent of Schools MaryJane Garibay said. “When you see the kids and their faces when they are talking about this and you know they are learning and enjoying it along the way, that feeling is never lost on me.”
“Overall, the district is very satisfied with the success of Project Lead the Way at Cedar Drive and the learning opportunities that are being afforded to our students. It is so enjoyable to see the excitement of our students when they are engaged in our Project Lead the Way STEM programs,” Director of Curriculum Melissa Jones said. “We will continue to find ways to foster and develop our students’ passion for STEM initiatives throughout the district.”
“It is a proud night to be a part of the Colts Neck School District,” Cedar Drive Middle School Principal Colin Rigby said. “We have an amazing staff and students and I think the trust they have put into each other is motivating to all of us and is special.”