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Upgrades Could Enhance STEM Education At Pottsgrove

POTTSTOWN PA – A student’s excitement with engineering, Pottsgrove School District Acting Superintendent Shellie Feola says, may have been among the most impressive memories of her recent personal introduction to an education program called Project Lead The Way. That, and continuing reminders from Pottsgrove High School’s principal, has put installing advanced-level science classrooms on a proposed school reconstruction agenda.

Upgrades Could Enhance STEM Education At Pottsgrove

A national program called Project Lead The Way may play a role in helping to expand STEM course offerings at Pottsgrove High School

Feola met recently with students involved in the national non-profit project that provides curricular programs in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education to middle and high schools across the country. She came away thinking it’s “imperative” to offer this type of program at Pottsgrove, Feola told members of the Board of School Directors during their Tuesday (Dec. 4, 2012) meeting.

With her experience, and prodding from high school Principal Yolanda Williams, upgrades to the school’s outdated science classrooms and laboratories have become part of a refurbishing plan Feola described to directors. A ballpark estimate of its cost: $30 million, if completed in full.

Two existing science classrooms lack water lines and are unsuitable as laboratories. Two others are what she called “extremely tight” and lack appropriate demonstration areas. All have aging fixtures and furniture. The last updates and reconstruction at the high school occurred in 1996.

Much has happened in technology and the sciences since then, Feola noted, and the same can be said in education. Private and charter schools are attracting some of the region’s best high school students with first-class facilities; tuition for some of those attending from Pottsgrove is being paid, under state law, by taxpayers. Improving the science labs makes sense even if only from a competitive viewpoint, she said.

Also making sense, Feola added, was the joy expressed by a female student who she interviewed at a Project Lead The Way conference. “I’m going to be an engineer,” Feola said the girl proclaimed enthusiastically, while describing the honors-level mathematics course in which she was involved. Kindling that kind of excitement in young Pottsgrovian minds would be an accomplishment, she said.

Just helping those in Pottsgrove struggling with math and science would be a significant boost, Feola contended. She said she talked with another student, a male, who said his work in Project Lead The Way courses helped him better understand math as it applied to different subjects.

The district is no stranger to STEM innovations. It has given permission in several past years to an outside vendor to hold an advanced, STEM-like science summer camp at the elementary and middle schools. One school board member, Vice President David Faulkner, works for an Exton PA software company, Bentley Systems Inc., that donated money for Pottsgrove STEM class tuitions during 2011.

It is becoming surrounded, too, by STEM programs at area schools. The Perkiomen Valley, North Penn, Twin Valley, and Downingtown districts all have STEM up and running in one form or another, according to Feola.

Whether or not Pottsgrove directors buy into her proposed science classroom renovations, Feola said the high school – in cooperation with the Western Montgomery Career and Technology Center in Limerick – could offer a “base-level course” as early as next year. Pottsgrove and center administrators expect to meet during January to discuss the possibility of a flexible STEM program for students, she said.

Related (to the Pottsgrove Board of School Directors’ meeting of Dec. 4):

Related (to Pottsgrove High reconstruction):


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