Area educators this last week participated in a series of hands-on events in hopes of connecting the potential employment dots for their students.
Thanks to a three-way partnership between the Olean BOCES Career and Technical Education (CTE) Center, St. Bonaventure University and the local Dream It. Do It. chapter (DIDI-WNY), teachers, administrators and guidance counselors toured Olean-area industries, discussed revamped curriculum offerings and worked with current tools and machines used to make the country run.
“We had a terrific group of teachers. It was a really diverse group,” said DIDI-WNY project coordinator Evelyn Sabina. “There were Spanish teachers, history teachers, math teachers, science and so on. That’s what I love about it. All of these teachers know the students the best. They are the ones that would be able to think it would be a perfect opportunity for Lisa or John in their history class.”
BOCES CTE offered a Summer Tech Expo on Monday and Tuesday, hosting numerous teacher workshops from computer coding to 21st-century multimedia book reports.
On Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, Dream It. Do It. organized the third annual Summer Teacher S.T.E.M. Experience, including a mission at the Dresser-Rand Challenger Learning Center in Allegany, hands-on manufacturing activities at BOCES and industry tours.
And St. Bonaventure University on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday held its K-12 Science Teacher Workshop. The program’s goal was to help teachers develop compelling new science labs and other curricula while forging boosted partnerships between SBU and area schools.
The three sessions stressing science, technology, engineering and math were available for educators to mix and match for the first time.
“There were teachers who went to our tours and then went on to the Bonaventure one, and there were some who went from the BOCES program and then came to ours,” Sabina said. “It was a great way to let everyone have a little variety, a taste of everything, all within a week.”
Sitting in a simulated mission at the Challenger Learning Center, Fillmore High School science teacher Rachel Coon said she was aiming to find paths to alternative S.T.E.M. careers.
“I took chemistry in college. I’m a chemistry teacher. What else can you do with chemistry?” Coon said Wednesday. “That was nice to see at SolEpoxy, which was the big chemistry (tour on Tuesday).”
Across the hall in the center’s simulated space station, Hinsdale fifth- and sixth-grade math teacher Holly Edwards was looking for new ways to engage her young students.
“It’s just letting the kids know it’s hands-on and it’s fun and it’s math and science,” she said. “Our plan is to visit some area colleges this year with some of the kids, even if they’re in fifth and sixth grade, and just let them know that college is a possibility and there are really great jobs right here at home.”
Edwards said she now can use real-world examples gained during the industry tours.
Tammy Peet’s students are a bit older, but the goal remains the same.
“This is amazing. I didn’t know a lot of these businesses and what they do,” said Peet, who works at Literacy West of Wyoming County, which helps adult students seeking high school-equivalency diplomas. “Our goal is to get them to (the Test Assessing Secondary Completion), but we do try to plant those seeds and get them thinking about what they’re going to do after high school. … Constantly giving them encouragement goes a long way.”
The ages of her students, she said, currently range from 16 to 58.
The weeklong programs also were attended by Olean Mayor Bill Aiello and representatives from the offices of U.S. Rep. Tom Reed and Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Sabina said.
The participating manufacturers included Dresser-Rand, SolEpoxy, Cytec, Scott Rotary Seals, Mazza Mechanical Services, Pierce Steel, AVX Olean Advanced Products, Keystone Tool and Die, Napoleon Engineering Services and CUTCO Cutlery.
“I have this great group of school champions now that are going to go out and spread the word and hopefully bring students to our upcoming events like Manufacturing Day and the Dream It. Do It. 500,” she added. “I’ve had quite a few requests … about the S.T.E.M. Cafe. They like the idea about the manufacturers coming to the schools.”