Tech Talk: Haddonfield’s Board of Education discusses advancing the school’s STEAM programs

At the Thursday, May 18 Board of Education meeting, the Board discussed how to ensure Haddonfield students are receiving an interdisciplinary education.

Haddonfield’s Board of Education convened in Haddonfield Memorial High School’s library on Thursday, May 18 to discuss district-wide plans to advance science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics (STEAM) in Haddonfield schools.

Stephen Burns, math facilitator at HMHS and leader of the district’s STEAM taskforce, outlined details on the progress of the high school’s STEAM initiative. He said the taskforce’s goal has been to create problem solvers who will thrive in the 21st century workplace.

Burns said the taskforce received around 110 responses to a survey distributed to alumni who have graduated within the last four years. He said they received numerous comments about Haddonfield needing to incorporate more computer science content into the curriculum and making courses more interdisciplinary in their scope.

In his presentation, Burns outlined the taskforce’s proposed ideas for getting students involved in STEAM programming and the steps they are currently taking. Burns said on Monday, May 22 he and superintendent Richard Perry will pay a visit to Eastern Regional High School to observe their robotics course as well as their robotics extracurricular activities and get a better grasp of how to develop robotics programs for the 2018–2019 school year.

Burns also discussed piloting a STEAM professional learning community for the 2018–2019 school year, which would consist of members from all major departments meeting to develop interdisciplinary projects and activities for students to complete throughout the school year.

“When we trying to develop programs, we were sure to focus on divergent thinking, creativity, project management, innovative, critical thinking — those were thing we thought were important,” Burns said.

The board approved policies to advance science and technology for Haddonfield students in the upcoming 2017–2018 year as well during Thursday’s meeting. The board authorized the purchase of 300 chromebooks to be distributed to every fifth grade student in the district in September 2017 at the cost of $90,000.

“We’ve fallen behind in this area of student access instantaneously to technology,” said assistant superintendent Michael Wilson.

Wilson also discussed the need to update the science textbook for seventh graders. He said the textbook currently in use has fallen behind on the times and seventh graders are in serious need of more recent edition. The board approved the iScience Life textbook by McGraw Hill for use in the 2017–2018 school year.

In other news:

  • The Board of Education recognized a variety of Haddonfield students’ accomplishments with commendations at Thursday’s meeting. Elementary students Brady Norton, Alex Nucklos and Peter Hoag were recognized for gaining admittance into the All South Jersey Elementary Honors Band. The trio played for those gathered in attendance. Twelve Haddonfield Memorial High School students also received commendations for achieving above average scores on the National Latin Exam. Sixth and seventh graders from Haddonfield’s Odyssey of the Mind team were recognized for tying for first place at the state Odyssey of the Mind competition and advancing to the national competition.
  • Superintendent Richard Perry discussed a small number of anti-semitic incidents that have arisen at Haddonfield Middle School. He said following verbal anti-semitic remarks and swastikas being drawn in the boy’s bathroom at the school, the district has enlisted the help of the Haddonfield police department and the Camden County prosecutor’s office to quell the incidents. Board president Adam Sangillo said the incidents have been the work of a small number of foolish students, but the district is using this as an opportunity to educate students about the importance of tolerance. Perry said the district is going to do its best to make students feel safe and secure within all school buildings. “We feel as a district that any student — no matter what their race or what their ethnicity or religious faith is should be able to come to school and not feel bullied or threatened or insulted in any way,” Perry said. As such, the district has consulted the Jewish Community Relations Council in Cherry Hill and the Anti-Defamation League in Philadelphia about educating students on the consequences of hate through seminars and assemblies. “We’re very concerned about our students that are both victims and perpetrators in these events,” Perry said.

The next Board of Education meeting will be June 22 at 7 p.m.