Full STEAM ahead for Brooklyn Center

As students return to the halls of Brooklyn Center Middle and High School for the 2017-18 school year, they’ll be the first to experience a new academic sea change in the school’s infrastructure.

Beginning this academic year, the former Brooklyn Center IB World School will officially operate as Brooklyn Center Middle and High School STEAM, marking a transition to a Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics system. As part of the transition, Brooklyn Center STEAM (BCS) will implement a curricular model known as Project Lead The Way (PLTW), a project-based learning curriculum that will utilize physical space to accommodate four specific instructional spaces for the program.

“Within Project Lead The Way, we made the decision to focus in the middle and high school on biomedical sciences,” said BCS Principal Carly Jarva. “Two classrooms here in the high school wings have been converted to become Project Lead The Way spaces. They will be populated by all of our freshmen and sophomores, who will take a course called ‘Principles of Biomedical Science.’ They’ll be focused on doing medical investigations, dissections, different lab experiments.”

According to Jarva, all PLTW coursework at the high school level will operate from a “flipped classroom” standpoint, where modules will be available online for students to allow for inquiry-based coursework. Physical renovations to allow for this model of teaching included the addition of lab tables and storage spaces.

“At the middle school level, our sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade students will all be exposed to a semester-elective course that has two separate nine-week modules in it,” said Jarva. “The first one is robotics and automation, and then design and modeling. They will be focused on actually building simple machines, and figuring out what the different components of simple machining (are). In the design and modeling class, they’re actually learning about two- (and) three-dimensional space … and how to analyze and think from a spatial reasoning standpoint.”

The new STEAM system necessitated the recruitment of five teachers who completed approximately a combined 340 hours of training.

“Two teachers have moved over from other existing positions that they occupied on the faculty, and then we hired three new staff members,” said Jarva. “They’re new to us from a variety of different places: two of them have taught in other schools, and one is new to the teaching profession.”

Bold new developments
In addition to the implementation of STEAM at BCS, the school is also focusing on training students in what constitutes appropriate school behavior.

“One of the pieces that we’ve focused on over the summer was the development of a rights and responsibilities student handbook,” said Jarva. “(We’re) really focusing on situational appropriateness, and not being punitive in nature, but really wanting to be focused on learning (and) teaching expected behaviors. And when a student does make a mistake, how we’re able to then build, repair and restore.”

Jarva said that the handbook would be focused on culturally responsive interventions, and that students would be able to see themselves and their cultures represented in curricular material.

“Classroom culture is not just based and grounded in a teacher’s culture, but rather that we’re building that community collectively,” she said. “We’re approaching student discipline, which we’re going to be referring to as student management, differently. We’re approaching it from a teaching standpoint instead of a punishing standpoint. And that’s a shift for the entire district.”

BCS is also launching five student leadership structures this fall: Clean Green Team, which develops students’ pride in caring for their environment; Backpack Tutors, where high school students assist middle-schoolers with their coursework; Dare2BeReal, a space where culturally and racially diverse students can meet and discuss race-related topics; Centaur Spirit, a Centaur Pride-focused assembly; and an expanded version of the existing Centaur Council.

As for Jarva, she said that she was simply excited for the opportunities that these changes will bring for Brooklyn Center STEAM.

“It ratchets up the expectations across the board,” she said. “If truly one of our beliefs is that our students can learn at high levels, then we have to be setting forth opportunities for them to do so.”

Contact Christiaan Tarbox at [email protected]