For two years now, Scofield Middle School, Stamford’s magnet school with a focus in science, mathematics and technology, has used two Hewlett Packard grants to fund new initiatives exploring water quality around the school. The grant money—$330,000 through an Innovations in Education grant and a $160,000 Catalyst Initiative grant—has allowed the school to purchase laptops, scientific calculators and cutting-edge geographic information systems (GIS) to collect data about the water surrounding the school and integrate their findings across the curriculum.
Their work has not gone unnoticed. Last Thursday, Principal Jan Rossman and Assistant Principal and project administrator Brian Olkowski went to Washington D.C. to share their work at a congressional hearing. The two were invited after presenting at the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) conference in Philadelphia in June.
“We were fortunate enough to get these grants, and we discussed how they allowed us to get the technology into the school and what it ultimately can do,” said Olkowski.
The congressional hearing, Student Literacy in a Digital World, discussed how education needs to evolve to reach students in a digital era. Nonprofit organizations including the National Coalition for Technology in Education and Training and the International Reading Association were attendance along with districts from Arlington and Philadelphia for their use of technology in the classroom.
“Our presentation at ISTE focused on our STEM [science, technology, engineering and mathematics] work at the school, and ISTE helped get us in the door with the congressional hearing,” said Olkowski.
What stemmed the STEM learning at Scofield began two years ago after there was a water contamination from termite pesticide in its neighborhood. The incident, said Olkowski, was a “teachable moment” and the school applied for two grants through Hewlett Packard to fund the technology and professional development to get the students outside to learn about testing for water quality, data collection, and how our history, such the Industrial Revolution, impacted our environment. The school has also partnered with its now sister school in China, the Middle School Attached to Shandong University, to share practices of how to test, assess and evaluate water quality. In September, the school will welcome a delegation of three teachers and 16 students from its sister school in Jinan, China where they will collaborate together on the water testing project at Scofield.
“It’s an interdisciplinary approach to get the kids more involved in science—and we’ve seen positive results,” said Olkowski. “When kids get hands-on experience they become interested in a project and stick with it.” Although funding for the project is in its final year, Olkowski says the technology is already in place and the project will be continued into the future and is not contingent upon new grant funding.