STEAM Education is Being Revived in Glastonbury
The addition of an expensive new STEAM lab at Glastonbury High School promises to offer new courses and opportunities for students.
BY KATE QIAN
With enrollment in STEAM courses steadily dropping for the past few years, it appeared that Glastonbury High School wouldn’t be able to provide students with an up-to-date education in the sciences. However, during the 2021-2022 school year, construction on the STEAM lab began with the goal of reversing that downward trend.
According to the Glastonbury High School STEAM Lab webpage, the new lab will be located in one of the school’s lower hallways, replacing the space where three outdated classrooms used to be. Its objective is to introduce more students into STEAM, which stands for science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics, to help them learn and develop new skills, and to provide a space for the school’s robotics team to work in. It will be used for the first time in the 2022-2023 school year. Design Careers in STEAM, Computer Modeling for Animation and Game Design and Digital Electronics are all new or updated courses that will be arriving during the year, along with Principles of Applied Robotics and Engineering, a course that was first offered in the 2021-2022 school year. This has resulted in new teachers and staff, and it has also excited many students.
“It sounds like a lot of fun, and I hope that it will give me an opportunity to explore the STEAM fields more in-depth and increase my understanding of these subjects,” Serena Laizhou, is a student who has enrolled in Design Careers in STEAM, one of the new courses, wrote to the News.
The decreasing interest in technology education courses at the high school and the increasing number of jobs requiring skills in STEAM were key factors in the decision to build the lab. Glastonbury High School originally had a woodshop class, an automotive course, and a metals elective. However, the program did not adapt to the need for more modern technological skills in the fields they were preparing students for. They did not teach students how to use computers for modeling and designing, which made the courses continually more outdated as time passed.
The STEAM lab was designed to include industry-standard modern technology in order to provide students with a more current and relevant education. Unlike the classrooms that it replaced, the lab will not be sectioned off by walls. This will allow for more effective usage of the space. The space was also designed to provide the GHS robotics team a place to store and experiment with their creations. According to Glastonbury Superintendent Alan Bookman, the project has also been expanded beyond the original 3,000 square feet area. An old electronics room and an outdated graphics room have been renovated to help improve STEAM education at GHS, too.
The curriculum has also been updated to reflect these changes. Elizabeth Cole, the Director of Career Technical Education, has worked with a “dynamic team of curriculum directors, teachers, industry leaders, community partners and colleagues in higher education” to develop the programs and courses. While creating the program, they considered what students would need to know going into a college or career in the area of STEAM. Further down the line, they hope to give students the opportunity to work with professionals and gain experience through internships.
“Overall, when looking at both new and existing courses we have worked with our partners in industry and higher education to prepare Glastonbury students to be able to problem solve, design, and innovate for the issues of both today and tomorrow,” Cole wrote to the News.
As a rising sophomore, Serena said that she was very excited for the new lab and hoped that it would allow her to more deeply explore the STEAM fields. Serena did not attend a public elementary school. Instead, she went to a school with a small, tightly knit community that did not give out grades. Serena and her peers only had access to five, slow, outdated computers. When she matriculated into a public middle school, she found much of the science and technology education to be different. This inspired her to become especially interested in the sciences.
Ilakkiya Tamilirasu, a Glastonbury High School student interested in the field of technology, is also looking forward to the arrival of the lab. She’s interested in pursuing a career in robotics and engineering and wrote to the News that she hopes to see the lab offer hands-on experience to students.
Rising junior Madison Archambault has been interested in biology since sixth grade, and is currently participating in the Assisted Research Mentorship program at GHS. She is enthusiastic that the school is helping make STEAM education more accessible to all students, especially younger girls.
Madison emphasized, “I think it’s extra important to expose young girls to STEAM education because that’s oftentimes an option that they don’t even know exists for them until they’re exposed to it and, you know, us girls, we got some good ideas.”
The funding to build the lab was provided through a combination of federal and state grants. Dr. Bookman, the superintendent, stated that the school was able to obtain federal funding easily because the funding was meant for schools to enhance education and specifically mentioned STEAM as a way to do so. $300,000 of the Board of Education’s operating budget was also used to pay for construction planning and equipment, and the school hopes to raise $400,000 more to help pay for specialized equipment and furniture.
Some students believe the money was needed elsewhere. Students Elliot Finch and Sarah Zhang wrote to the News about some areas of the school that could have used the funding. They mention more effective AC units, maintaining availability of lunches near the end of school, and expanding locker rooms and restrooms.
While there are some mixed feelings about the new STEAM lab, many students hold positive emotions towards the addition to the high school. The lab brings with it the chance to learn useful and relevant skills and gives Glastonbury students a more accessible way to pursue the sciences.
“It’s just a place that I think will start off really well in September. By the time we get to October, it will be better. By the time we get to January, the amount of things that will roll into that place will be quite impressive,” Superintendent Bookman said, “And so I think it’s going to be just a continually growing kind of place where it’s going to be more exciting for all our students.”
Glastonbury High was founded in 1902.