White House Tips Hat to Philly School Collaborative STEM Efforts

[More and more schools are developing STEM programs. In this T.H.E. Journal article W.B Saul High School in Philapdelphia is profiled. The school combines an urban environment with agricultural opportunities for students. For the past two years I’ve worked on a series of projects with the Manchester Academic Charter School, the Fort Cherry School District, and the South Fayette School District where students not only grow plants, but begin to think along entrepreneurial avenues. This year we’re moving into Sustainable Living with a partnership with the Eden Hall Campus of Chatham University. It’s not enough that students see the connections to their school; today they need to discern the economic, civic, and social relationships that impact their communities.]

By Dian Schaffhauser 08/16/16

Photo by Norton Gusky CC BY 4.0

Photo by Norton Gusky CC BY 4.0

A Philadelphia high school with a focus on agricultural sciences has just been recognized alongside two benefactors for undertaking an innovative approach to STEM. The W.B. Saul High School recently accepted the US2020 STEM Mentoring Award in the category of “excellence in public-private partnerships,” during a STEM Mentoring Symposium at the White House. The high school won along with its collaborators, The Nature Conservancy and the CH2M Foundation.

Recipients from W.B. Saul High School in Philadelphia, the CH2M Foundation and The Nature Conservancy show their award for a public-private partnership to teach STEM to high schoolers. Source: CH2M.

At the end of last year the foundation had awarded a $200,000 grant to the Conservancy to develop a green infrastructure and a STEM education pilot project. Over the next two years engineers and scientists from both of those organizations will work with students and teachers at the high school to design and build a green infrastructure project on the school campus involving water management work to address storm water quantity and quality concerns.

The 130-acre campus is a unique one. The site borders the sizable Fairmount Park and contains greenhouses, a working farm for a meat science program, a golf course, field crops and a pasture area for livestock.

The latest project has two goals: to bump up interest in green careers that involve science, technology, engineering and math by putting students in touch with mentors and immersing them in project-based learning; and to engage the broader school community in the value of green infrastructure for urban settings, which could include bioswales, small wetlands, green roofs and rain gardens.

“With this grant, teachers will be able to provide a true hands-on application of the agricultural curriculum that is currently being taught,” noted agricultural dean, Jessica McAtamney, in a prepared statement. “The grant will enable Saul’s teachers’ to be at the forefront of teaching environmental technology.”

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