“A lot of our students feel that this is not for them. They don’t see themselves as scientists or engineers or architects. Us immersing them in this and exposing them to this is going to benefit them greatly, and it’s going to open other horizons for our students.”
Over the summer, Valdez participated in a new program supported by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF) that seeks to help teachers in Upper Manhattan confidently deliver engaging STEAM lessons, taking advantage of the natural environment and public parks in their neighborhoods.
STEAM in the City Powered by Barnard and SNF connects pre-K through 8th grade teachers in Upper Manhattan with scholars at Barnard College who share best practices in teaching science, technology, engineering, arts, and math and offer ideas for how the city itself can become a classroom. The aim is to help infuse schools—from teachers down to students—with enthusiasm around subjects that some feel are, as Valdez puts it, “not for them.”
One of those Barnard scholars is associate professor of biological sciences Jonathan Snow, who gave teachers a hands-on (and mesh-hat-on) introduction to beekeeping in an urban context. “I want to be able to pass on my own enthusiasm and excitement for honey bees so that they can bring that into their own classrooms,” says Snow.
And the enthusiasm did seem to be catching. “The actual hands-on, experiential learning opened my eyes to so many more things I can do with my students outside of the classroom,” says Valdez.
SNF has supported a variety other educational projects to help get kids excited about STEAM subjects, from the programs offered at the V.Lab in the Greek village of Vamvakou, to a STEAM Innovation Challenge on the DonorsChoose platform to help equip teachers with the resources they need to fully engage students, to F1 in Schools teams engineering miniature racecars.
In New York, SNF has supported Edible Schoolyard NYC in building school gardens where kids can learn by getting their hands dirty. The Foundation has also supported education programs and the Discovery Garden for kids at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden as well as the New York Botanical Garden’s Edible Academy and Children’s Adventure Garden.
“This program is fundamentally about breaking down barriers—the barriers between research and teaching, between the classroom and the real world, and between educators and exciting, positive experiences with STEAM subjects,” said SNF Co-President Andreas Dracopoulos. “Teachers are on the front lines of shaping our future. We’re proud to help Barnard empower them in making learning come alive for New York City students.”