Posted by Wyckoff Schools Today at 2/15/2017
Students eating in the cafeteria at Eisenhower Middle School have had a new view this school year. A glass wall on the west side of the room is literally a window into the future of STEM and possibly into their personal futures as well.
The view into the new 1,200-foot STEM Lab shows numerous big-screen monitors, lab benches, and 3-D printers, and a laser cutter that are already being incorporated into the school’s classes and clubs related to technology, robotics, design, and art. The new facility, which was constructed during the past summer and completed in October, replaced an old stage that had been used infrequently for plays and concerts in the cafeteria since a new, modern, multi-purpose room opened in 2007.
The Board of Education paid $376,000 for the construction of the STEM Lab and the Wyckoff Education Foundation donated $50,000 toward equipment.
“Nobody has built a space like this,” says Eisenhower’s Principal Chris Iasiello when asked how the Eisenhower lab compares to facilities at middle schools in nearby towns. “We really want kids to be little engineers where they’re creating things and bringing them to life.”
Iasiello says the lab will feature ways of building that are not high tech. Drills, hammers, and other tools will be used on wood, foam, and plastic. The high-tech angle, though, is very impressive as art teacher Monique Sarfity works with students to create images with Corel Draw that can then be cut into metal with the Epilog Mini laser cutter. Other students are designing their own figurines, which are then brought to life in the 3-D printers.
“We’ve built a cool innovative space we think we can continue to grow into,” says Iasiello. The District is continuing to work on curriculum development with Chris Anderson of the Center for Excellence in STEM Education at The College of New Jersey.
The middle school lab is part of a larger district-wide initiative to create “Maker Spaces” in all Wyckoff public schools. Dr. Kuder sees these Maker Space/STEM areas as an important part of a child's education in Wyckoff. "As we grow these programs around the District, we are hoping to provide our students with many opportunities to engage in the design process as described in the image below:
Traditional classrooms and subjects are not always well-suited and accommodating of student tinkering and experimentations," Kuder adds. "We get more focussed on product than process. These new spaces and resources in the District allow us to focus on process, as much as, or more than, product. This enhances critical problem solving and creativity."