NU, Niagara Falls Schools and National Grid Team to Advance STEM Education

July 19, 2013  |  by Michael Freedman

  • STEM Grant

    Members of Niagara University, the Niagara Falls City School District and National Grid celebrate a partnership to advance STEM education in Western New York.

  • STEM Grant

    Cynthia Bianco, superintendent of the Niagara Falls City School District, smiles as Dr. Bonnie Rose, executive vice president at Niagara University, explains how NU will work to prepare young people for careers in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

National Grid, in partnership with Niagara University and the City of Niagara Falls City School District, is providing funding for a graduate-level science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) and Advance Manufacturing (AM) professional development courses for 45 teachers from the Niagara Falls City School District. Once the training for the teachers is completed, Niagara University will host summer camps for more than 300 students with diverse backgrounds from across Western New York. The goal of the three-year program is to enhance STEM and AM education in order to provide students with the tools and resources to be prepared for the future job market.

“There is a real crisis evolving in our national education system, including here in Western New York as our children’s awareness is low with respect to the applied nature of STEM, leaving them unprepared for the future job market that is demanding these professional skills,” said Dennis Elsenbeck, regional executive for National Grid. “This educational initiative is just one example of our commitment to strengthen community assets, and this project is especially significant because there is no more important asset than our children.”

The summer camp provides students in grades three through nine the opportunity to attend an educational summer camp that focuses on STEM careers to enhance their understanding and comprehension of these educational disciplines, while providing students a positive experience of being in a new and different learning environment on a university campus.

Superintendent Cynthia Bianco said, “The district is very grateful to receive $60,000 and a three-year commitment to help provide quality professional development for our teachers. The science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) classrooms will provide a great opportunity for our students, but naturally teachers are the key to turning that opportunity into measurable student achievement. We also highly value the partnerships with Niagara University and National Grid. It is this kind of collaboration that benefits everyone, most especially our youth.”

As part of the program, each of the teachers receives 45 hours of educational and classroom training in STEM/AM, and will receive certification upon completion. The professional development course aims to positively modify teaching practices for all participants in STEM as well as provide a comfort level in STEM curriculum, while supplying teachers with best practices for the classroom. This year’s class includes 15 teachers from 11 Niagara Falls schools.  The teachers will use their training in the new STEM classrooms that are being set up in each school in the Niagara Falls City School District over the next three years.  The training program is designed to help transform STEM education in Niagara Falls and make the district a regional leader.

Over the next three years, the summer camp portion of the program will directly impact more than 300 students throughout Western New York who will receive educational STEM instruction by the newly trained teachers. There are two summer camp sessions each of the three years, one for students in grades three through nine focusing on literacy STEM careers and the other for girls in grades seven through nine that focuses on personal development and STEM careers. Students will be provided introductions to careers in STEM through role playing so they have a better understanding of how to pursue careers in these various fields.

“Niagara University is pleased to be in the forefront of designing and facilitating programs in the STEM field of study for teachers and in these STEM summer camps,” said Dr. Debra Colley, dean of NU’s College of Education. “It is through the unique partnerships of the university with the Niagara Falls City School District and National Grid that this level of collaboration and cutting-edge opportunities for our children and youth are possible; the university, schools and business  working together to ensure college and career readiness in high-demand STEM fields. Through our involvement,  the College of Education will help to improve career preparation among participating students, and also to introduce current STEM content to our pre-service teachers, who can then go on to foster greater student achievement in their own classrooms.”

National Grid’s support of this project is part of the its Engineering our Future initiative, in which the company has made a $3 million investment for launching programs and supporting corporate partnerships focusing on exciting students about STEM subjects. In addition, National Grid is actively involved in advancing STEM educational programming in Western New York through a partnership with the University at Buffalo. The company sponsors 65 students each year from Western New York schools in grades nine and ten that show high STEM aptitude to attend the National Grid/UB Engineering Summer Camp.  Students participate in classroom academics around applying STEM principles, attend field visits across the region to highlight technologies and area businesses, and board on campus to provide them with an introduction to the college experience.