As the Science Coordinator here at OCM BOCES, it is my hope that science, technology, engineering, and mathematics—or STEM—teachers engage their students by using real world problems, and give them tools to solve them. STEM classrooms should not look like traditional classrooms. They are noisy, active, full of questions, and much discussion. Students are consulting with one another and teachers about their findings. There is conversation, observation, comparison, and note taking occurring. Teachers roam the room, facilitating instructions and using well-formed questions to guide the learning that is happening “live” in the classroom. Through the selective use of inquiry, students use materials, apply prior knowledge, move forward in the lesson, and begin building a platform for learning STEM content.
The OCM BOCES Science Center offers two summer programs that certainly assist in building the platform for learning STEM content. They are the Adirondack Fields Studies and Marine Studies Enrichment Programs. These programs are extensive and unique 5 – 6 day environmental education programs designed to provide exceptional opportunities for district students in grades 10 – 12.
The Adirondack Field Studies Program usually runs the first week of July, and is a unique 6-day environmental education program designed to provide research opportunities for students. Participants can explore the ecology of the Adirondack Mountains and gain hands-on experience in the use of the scientific method through both a structured program and independent research. Through daily field excursions and group projects, students will develop an understanding of the ecology of the Adirondack Mountain region and an appreciation for the beauty and complexity of living systems. The setting for the program is the Cranberry Lake Biological Station, owned by SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, and located in the northwestern part of the Adirondacks. The facility is highly isolated and accessible only by boat. Each day, students are guided by a team of instructors from SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry and local high school science teachers with a strong interest in ecology. Students will have access to both the equipment and the personnel at the Biological Research Station at Cranberry Lake, giving them real insight as to how biological research is actually carried out.
The Marine Studies Enrichment Program (usually held in mid-July for 5 days) offers students a wonderful opportunity to learn about various marine environments. Students will visit salt marshes, sand dunes, rock jetties, and sand flats to collect marine specimens and learn about the characteristics and importance of each ecosystem. Crabs, clams, polycheates, mussels, jellyfish and sea stars are among the organisms that will be observed in their natural habitat. Time will also be spent in the laboratory for dissections and lectures. Students will be expected to take notes in the field and laboratory, as well as keep a personal journal. In addition to fieldwork, students will visit a marine museum to learn about early whaling off the coast of Long Island, as well as go on a fishing trip. Marine biologists from Long Island will lead the students in their studies.
The learning opportunities within these two programs are exceptional and far reaching. Through teamwork and field experiences, students will gain insights into the unique environments of a variety of organisms. Students who are prepared for the rigorous schedule will have an unforgettable experience.
Increasing STEM knowledge and expanding STEM education and career opportunities for students needs to be a priority. Student achievement in STEM is key to fostering a new wave of innovators who can creatively address complex challenges, many of which are environmental. The environment is a compelling context for teaching STEM: it provides teachers with a diverse range of real-world matters that engage students in meaningful hands-on opportunities to apply and reinforce STEM concepts across subject areas.
Please contact the OCM BOCES Science Center with further questions on our two summer programs that assist in the reinforcement of STEM concepts!