Innovation and Our Schools

Bulkeley Middle School 7th and 8th grade students WOW’d and educated politicians, philanthropists, and principals with their engineering projects at a ribbon cutting for the school’s new technology lab last Thursday, May 10th. They demonstrated the principles of aero-dynamics, vex robots, and tension/force relationships on bridges they had designed and built with CAD systems. All of this was a part of the “Gateway to Technology” curriculum that was recently integrated into the middle school.

This event celebrates a community achievement and demonstrates how our schools can be kept vibrant and competitive in these tough economic times through the public and private partnerships. Major donors, Joseph Kirchhoff of the Kirchhoff Family Fund of the Community Foundation of Dutchess County and Monique Segarra and Christopher Lipscomb of Systems Flow Inc had a grand time cutting the ribbon and chatting with students. Assemblyman Kevin Cahill spoke on how crucial it is to keep our schools vital with broad community support. Marvin Kreps, Director of Curriculum & Instruction spoke with passion about integrating new and innovative curriculums and John Kemnitzer, BMS Principal praised the benefits he has seen the program have on student learning and said, “We implemented the Gateway to Technology program to help all of our students at Bulkeley Middle School succeed in the 21st century.  This nationally recognized pre-engineering program uses project-based learning to challenge and engage the natural curiosity and imagination of middle school students. We have been delighted with the student response. ”

Also there to celebrate were notable community and academic leaders including Superintendant Joseph Phelan, BOE President Deirdre Burns, Colleen Cruikshank of the Chamber of Commerce and Jennifer Hammoud, President of Rhinebeck Science Foundation that raised the funds for the lab, the curriculum and the teacher training. Other important guests who helped realize the project included: Andrea Kirchhoff, BOE trustees, Karen Hatter and Dean Vallas and RSF executive members, Ali Hammoud and Andrew and Laura Schulkind. 

Joshua Martin demonstrating stress and tension to Cahill, Kirchhoff and Lipscomb, photo by Kathy Cassens.

 “This was a crucial curriculum needed to keep our schools current and we were honored to work with the community, school administrators, the Board of Education and many others to help make this lab happen. Local philanthropists and Assemblyman Cahill were incredibly supportive.” said Jen Hammoud, Rhinebeck Science Foundation president.

Background

In 2011, after much due diligence, the Rhinebeck Central School District identified Project Lead the Way (PLTW), a technology-based, pre-engineering curriculum as a gold standard program for our schools. School administrators then asked Rhinebeck Science Foundation to lead the funding for a “Gateway to Technology” lab for the middle school and the community rose to the challenge within a very short time period last year.

The funds were raised within a six-month period and last summer a traditional Industrial Arts room was converted to a state-of-the-art technology lab while a teacher was trained at Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT). Last Fall the program was launched with little fanfare but on Thursday, students had the opportunity to show-off their lab and what they learned.