This week, Massachusetts is holding its first annual statewide celebration of STEM education. Announced by the Baker-Polito Administration, Mass STEM Week is designed to spark student interest and knowledge in science, technology, engineering, and math, fields with strong roots in the Boston area, rapidly growing job opportunities, and a critical role in future innovation. At Boston Prep, we are celebrating both in school and on social media the exciting ways in which our students are engaging in the STEM fields. Check out some of the highlights below.
Our New Home Makes Hands-On Learning Possible
Two years ago, we had one science lab serving 415 students - a retrofitted classroom with one sink in the corner and lab benches. There were no gas burners and no chemical hood. The classroom was used back to back all day for a variety of classes, so teachers didn't have the ability to set up labs in advance.
Today, in our new home, we have six fully equipped science labs and a design center for engineering and innovation.
Buildings do not make a school. But there is no doubt that effectively designed and equipped spaces like these science labs - which now allow our students to do science with their own hands - enhance teaching and learning in deeply impactful ways. We are incredibly grateful to have access to the space our students deserve as they grow into future scientists and engineers.
Cross-Age STEM Mentorship
There is no doubt that sophomore Travis loves STEM. And he's spreading that love to Boston Prep's 6th graders.
Selected through a competitive application process, Travis volunteers his time twice per week, giving up his study hall periods, to serve as a Teaching Assistant in 6th grade science classes.
Teacher Marilyn Onwunaka notes that the students love having Travis in class. "In particular, the male students are drawn to him and really respect him. A select number of them often ask, 'Is Mr. McIntosh coming in today?' They even clap for him when he comes into the room! Their excitement and connection to science has grown through their connection to him."
The sixth graders aren't the only ones enjoying the experience. "The thing I enjoy most about being a TA is interacting with the middle schoolers and having them see me as a resource. They can relate to me since I am still a student at Boston Prep, who was in their shoes not too many years ago. They see me as another resource in the class that they are not afraid to use if they are struggling."
Travis hopes to earn a spot at Northeastern or MIT in just a couple short years. While he is loving this experience in the classroom, he says his long-term goal is to build a career in technology or robotics.
Robotics Offered for First Time Ever
The Phoenix Design Center, a flexible space designed for engineering, innovation, and interdisciplinary learning in Phase Two of our new facility, is now open, and Automation and Robotics is being offered to Boston Prep students for the first time ever! All seventh and eighth grade students will complete the course during the year. In addition, sophomores were given the opportunity to choose a more extensive version of the course as an elective. (As a testament to students’ hunger for STEM opportunities, automation and robotics ended up being the most highly selected elective among the sophomore class!)
The course, designed by Project Lead the Way, engages students in hands-on learning, beginning with the basics of mechanical systems, such as gear ratios and torque. Students use the VEX Robotics® platform to design, build, and program real-world objects. By the end of the course, middle school students will complete a pull-toy project, demonstrating their ability to design an object that can change direction and force. Sophomores will also be introduced to computer programming and will begin the elements of automation, creating a robot that can complete a basic task.
We are incredibly grateful for our partnership with Mass STEM Hub, which is supporting our engagement with Project Lead the Way through extensive professional development.
Partnership with MassBioEd Foundation Deepens Life Sciences Curriculum
MassBioEd is a program designed to support students and teachers through lab-centered inquiry-based learning in the life sciences. Thanks to our partnership with MassBioEd, Boston Prep biology students have been able to bring science concepts to life. From providing molecule kits that allowed students to build extremely realistic models of DNA and RNA structures, to providing electrophoresis equipment (that many students do not learn to use until college!) for investigating antibiotic resistance, MassBioEd is enabling Boston Prep students to have access to experiences that inspire and tools and skills that build a foundation for future success in the STEM fields.
Alumna Pursues the Sciences
It’s not only our middle and high school students digging into STEM. Our alumni are busy pursuing STEM majors and careers as well - alumni like Oluwaseun.
Oluwaseun is a 2014 graduate of Boston Prep and a 2018 graduate of Stanford University, where she earned a degree in Human Biology with a concentration in the biological and social determinants of human behavior. “As a child, I would always watch the Discovery Health channel with my mother. Untold Stories of the ER was my favorite show. I loved hearing about how patients were miraculously saved from life threatening injuries or illnesses, and I was fascinated by the quick thinking and passion of ER doctors. Even from this very young age, I knew I was going to be a doctor.”
While at Stanfard, Oluwaseun honed in on two specific interests in the medical field. First, she found a passion for psychiatry through experience shadowing a psychiatrist at Stanford Psychiatry. Secondly, as she overcame the initial struggles of pre-med studies, she was reminded of the need for more doctors of color. “I used my struggles as a source of motivation for myself academically and also to inspire my peers. I became very passionate about mentoring other black pre-meds and encouraging them to not give up on their aspirations of being a doctor.” Oluwaseun focused her senior thesis on women of color in the medical field, focusing on the need for greater representation as well as the common challenges faced by women of color pursuing medicine.
Today, Oluwasuen is working in a federally funded clinic as a Stanford Public Interest Network (SPIN) Fellow, gaining experience in a clinical setting while helping drive quality improvement and sustainable programming for medical staff and patients. Upon completion of her Fellowship program, Oluwaseun plans to attend medical school and hopes to become a child and adolescent psychiatrist, with a particular focus on the African American and Latinx population. “I also hope to continue to inspire and motivate other students of color to pursue medicine as well.”