Gov. Patrick and Education Secretary Malone Visit STEM Program

By John Anderson

On Friday, Governor Deval Patrick along with Secretary of Education Matthew Malone visited Auburn Middle School to witness firsthand the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) Academy for Middle School Engineers. The STEM Academy is one of 47 Innovation Schools in the Commonwealth, created in 2010 after Governor Patrick signed into law the historic Achievement Gap Act.

Other Innovation Schools focus on International Baccalaureate programs, dual language instruction, and alternative education opportunities amongst others. As for STEM, Governor Patrick said, “Programs like the STEM Academy for Middle School Engineers in Auburn are another example of how targeted investments in education will expand opportunity and create long term growth.”

Secretary Malone added, “We know the jobs of tomorrow will likely require specific skills related to STEM. By giving our students early exposure to these types of experiences we are ensuring they will be ready to compete in the 21st century.” About 100 middle school students participate in the Auburn academy and all 6-8 graders benefit indirectly.

In fiscal year 2013, Auburn Middle School received a $10,000 planning grant and a $35,000 implementation grant from Race to the Top funds to support the STEM Innovation Academy’s planning and first year. Auburn Superintendent Maryellen Brunelle said, “Our students deserve the very best we have to offer them and through the Governor’s support, as well as the support of Secretary Malone and the Massachusetts Legislature, we are committed to doing just that.”

After receiving t-shirts from middle school students, Governor Patrick and Secretary Malone proceeded to the math support classroom of teachers Christine Robbins and Kerry Palumbo. Six-grader Gabe, a member of the “catapult team”, was selected to demonstrate the use of the miniature device.

While looking deceptively simple, a catapult relies on numerous variables for proper function.

Tension on the throwing arm (a rubber band), the weight and size of the projectile (modeling clay), and proper finesse of the trigger all combine for an accurate shot. Initially Gabe had some difficulties with the distance of the toss, but he focused on his task, made adjustments, and finally hit the target cleanly. Gabe’s determination impressed the Governor and he made it a central point at the press conference.

The next stop was the 6th grade science classroom of Melissa Dupuis where students were doing various experiments dropping small balls from different heights and recording the distance of the bounce with yardsticks. These tests seemed to have a physics lesson attached. After a quick visit to a third classroom, Governor Patrick and Secretary Malone made a few statements to the press before departing for Boston.