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Honoring The Development of 21st Century Career Skills In School

Elementary school students at SUNY Poly's CNSE in Albany receive Be the Change for Kids Awards with the New York State School Boards Association.

Technology is a booming industry all across New York, in part due to the success of the nanotechnology research and development being done at SUNY Polytechnic Institute. Scientists, engineers, and innovators are creating the technology and tools that will be, or already are, a part of our daily lives. Our youth, the K-12 school students, are now finding themselves needing to be prepared to be a part of this technology rich future in school, career, and home, hence the growth of STEM in our education pipeline.

SUNY Polytechnic Institute and the New York School Boards Association (NYSSBA) created the “Be the Change for Kids” Innovation Awards in 2012 to honor engaging, STEM-based local school programs that foster 21st Century career skills in emerging fields such as nanotechnology, which are driving New York State’s burgeoning high-tech economy.

Nearly 40 schools from across the state were nominated this year to win a “Be the Change for Kids” Innovation Award, an annual recognition that highlights successful school programs that are making a difference in college, career, community and as citizens. The three winning programs were selected by SUNY Poly faculty and staff members, who served as judges. Programs were chosen based on their ability to be easily reproduced in other school districts. Judges noted that the winning ideas also promote student curiosity, creativity, critical thinking and civic responsibility, and teach students the skills that they will need for the type of STEM-based careers that are becoming more prevalent in New York State.

The winning districts, in alphabetical order, are:

  • Byron-Bergen Central School District for the “Inquiry-Based Learning Lab,” a program that reaches all K-6 students and provides facilitated instruction through a project-based learning approach. This course seeks STEM applications to real-world situations in a collaborative environment where every student is able to engineer, create, innovate, and share.
  • Freeport Public Schools for “Introducing Nanotechnology into the K-12 Science Curriculum,” which aims to prepare students for the 21st century workforce by introducing nanotechnology into the K-12 science curriculum through nano-enabled lab activities where students can synthesize nanoparticles and watch their teacher and scientists characterize them at Brookhaven Laboratory through Internet-facilitated teleconferencing tools.
  • Hewlett-Woodmere Public Schools for “The Outdoor Environmental Center at Woodmere Middle School,” which offers gardening areas, a greenhouse with various species of plants, aquaponics and hydroponic systems, a food composter, and a pond ecosystem where students are encouraged to think both creatively and critically as they gain experience gardening, maintaining/preserving ecosystems, and observing the growth of different plants and animals while participating in hands-on activities.

These winning districts will each receive $5,000, which is funded by SUNY Poly. As part of the annual announcement, students and staff from the three school districts were also able to take a tour of SUNY Poly’s $24 billion state-of-the-art Albany NanoTech Complex.

When asked about the significance of the event and awards program, SUNY Poly Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Dr. Robert Geer said “SUNY Poly is excited to play a key role judging and supporting the ‘Be the Change for Kids’ Innovation Awards to encourage increased student interest in areas such as the nanosciences which underpin New York State’s high-tech ecosystem. We are proud to continue our partnership with the New York State School Boards Association to select and honor this year’s winners who are inspiring schools around the state to provide a learning experience that is targeted for career success.”

With this type of engagement throughout the education pipeline, the future looks to be technologically sound in New York.

Elementary students get a tour of SUNY Poly Nanotech Center in Albany.

Prior to the Be the Change for Kids Awards, presentation, students from the winning school districts received tours of SUNY Poly’s $24 billion Albany NanoTech Complex.

    Written by SUNY Poly

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