Educators, IBM Partner in STEM Program for Ossining Students


At St. Augustine’s School in Ossining, administrators, teachers and students are thankful for the gift of innovation. Indeed, innovation, science, engineering and exploration are some of the ways the IBM Family Science Saturday Program “has sparked excitement within the minds of many students,” Mary Huvane, a fifth-grade teacher, told Catholic New York.

“The program is a wonderful pathway for learning because it provides (fifth-grade) students with a way of engaging with science, and they can connect with others virtually,” Ms. Huvane said last week in a phone interview with CNY. “And they (coordinators) also provide a tactile portion of the program, which I think makes it extra exciting for the students. It allows them to explore science more deeply, and to be more college- and career-ready at a young age.”

Mary Jane Daley, regional superintendent of schools for Dutchess and Northern Westchester/Putnam Regions in the archdiocese, called the free educational outreach program “a wonderful way to inspire inquiry and creativity among our students.”

“Hopefully, they will have an insatiable interest to pursue careers in the sciences, math, technology and engineering,” she said.

Since the fall, a group of fifth-graders at St. Augustine have partnered with IBM to expand their minds and critical thinking skills through inquiry-based, hands-on learning, Ms. Huvane said. On Saturday mornings, she said, the students collaborate virtually with experts to expand their horizons within the realm of STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics). There are 42 fifth-graders at the school; about 20 have been participating in the academic, extracurricular -curricular activity, which is like a school club, in conjunction with the solid science curriculum at St. Augustine, Ms. Huvane said.

The program generally begins with a live-streamed session with experts followed by an activity-based tactile portion.  For students who would like to view the program again, the sessions are recorded and parents can easily access them for students at a later date. The lessons cover varied topics within the STEM arena, “such as states of matter, algorithms, coding, DNA extraction, electronics and kitchen chemistry,” Ms. Huvane said. 

“It’s a ton of fun since we get to learn about many different subjects within science,” said Lizzie Allan, a fifth-grader at St. Augustine, quoted by her teacher. 

Grace Kaplan of IBM usually begins the morning online. Experts then teach lessons about specific topics and students are guided through a hands-on activity, Ms. Huvane said. The activities range from computer programming to extracting DNA from strawberries, she said, adding, “Led by Grace Kaplan of IBM and Stephen Stibler, the head of IT at St. Augustine’s School, students are able to expand parameters of scientific knowledge and discovery.”

Ms. Kaplan told CNY, “This local educational outreach program is normally taught at Yorktown.  Children work together with their parents and IBM researchers. At this time when many children are learning from home, IBM pivoted to an online learning environment. These classes are offered at no cost to participants.”

The learning topics include Programming in Python, Polymers, States of Matter, Electronics, Algorithms, Kitchen Chemistry, Climate Change, Artificial Intelligence, Waves, Water and How to Help Creatures that Live in the Seas. “IBM has a history of helping to nurture the science skills of young people,” Ms. Kaplan said, adding that volunteer scientists who implement the program “also find the experience very rewarding.”


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