Feb 17 2016

OPINION: Emphasize S.T.E.A.M. in School Facilities Plan

The following letter was sent to the Piedmont Unified School District Board on Feb 8, 2016.

PUSD Master Facilities Plan.

To the School Board,

We are writing in strong support of S.T.E.A.M. (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts & Math) focused modernization at Piedmont High and Piedmont Middle School to be prioritized in the PUSD Master Plan and funded by a November 2016 bond measure.

Piedmont Makers is a 501(c)(3) non­profit parent support group focused on S.T.E.A.M. education advocacy in town. Our group is relatively new (we formed in January 2014) but we have been quite active in creating monthly K­12 Makerspace events at the Piedmont Middle School shop, monthly Tech Social community gatherings, and organizing the yearly K­12 Piedmont School Maker Faire, among other activities.
Our board is made up of Piedmont parents with students in the elementary, middle, and high schools who have come here to build our careers as engineers, designers, entrepreneurs, investors, artists, and architects on the doorstep of Silicon Valley because we believe it is the best place in the world to create. We in turn moved to Piedmont because we felt it was the best community in the Bay Area to raise our families and educate our children in the public schools.
The need for better S.T.E.A.M. education to prepare students for 21st century careers is clear. Local companies that are driving the global economy like Apple, Pixar, Google, and Tesla are built upon the intersection of S.T.E.A.M. disciplines to create incredible products, movies, apps, cars, and more. It is exciting to see Piedmont educators already teaching across S.T.E.A.M. disciplines today with project­driven courses like Mr. Saville’s Maker elective at Piedmont Middle School and Mrs. Chamberlain’s Physics of Alternative Energy at Piedmont High School. But we need to do more. We need to give our teachers and students best ­in­ class facilities to put our children in the best position to succeed in an economy that is is increasingly S.T.E.A.M.­ driven.
With two years of experience running S.T.E.A.M. programs in Piedmont, we can confidently say the demand for more S.T.E.A.M. educational activities is strong. Recent Friday night Tech Social events like Learning Minecraft Mods and Learning Animation (led by a Pixar Piedmont parent) attracted on average 100 students & parents. Recent Sunday Makerspace events like 3D Printing! and Learn to Solder have sold out all available seats in the Piedmont Middle School shop. Our 2015 School Maker Faire attracted over 80 student, teacher, and community Makers to exhibit their projects to nearly 1,000 attendees.
We ask the district and the school committee to be bold. Much as Piedmont led California in the adoption of K­12 Computer Science standards two year ago, we ask the school board to again lead to bring our secondary school facilities into the 21st century. We cannot continue the outdated education models that keeps art separate from science, and makerspaces separate from computer labs. The emerging Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) clearly call for creating more flexible spaces to encourage interaction between disciplines and can withstand more messy, creative activities. We need new facilities that support building the skills in our students that we see every day in our jobs ­­ artists collaborating with scientists, entrepreneurs pitching ideas, engineers working with designers, and more.
Imagine if the gateway to the Piedmont High School campus were a new S.T.E.A.M. building that combined disciplines, facilitated project-­based learning, and inspired our students to create.  What a gift to Piedmont that would be.
Thank you for your consideration,
Piedmont Makers Board of Directors:
David Ragones, President, Beach Parent. Bryan Cantrill, Secretary, Beach Parent. Ayyana Chakravartula, Treasurer, VP Tech Social, Wildwood Parent. Patrick Collins, VP School Maker Faire, Beach Parent. Jane Lin, VP Makerspace, Beach Parent. Sally Aldridge, VP Makerspace, PMS Rep Wildwood, PMS Parent. Wendi Sue, VP Makerspace, Wildwood Parent. Dion Lim, VP Tech Social, PMS Parent. Noelle Filippenko, VP Tech Social, Havens Parent alumni. Kurt Fleischer, VP Mentorship, Beach, PHS Parent. Jason Meil, VP Art & Design, Havens, PMS Parent. Larraine Seiden, VP Art & Design, Havens Parent. Vince Monical, PHS Rep, PHS Parent.
Editors’ Note:  Opinions expressed are those of the authors.

One Response to “OPINION: Emphasize S.T.E.A.M. in School Facilities Plan”

  1. Well if the upgrades suggested are so vital to the future of companies like Apple, Pixar, Google, Tesla and the like, maybe they should be tapped to fund the very expensive facility additions. The Piedmont property taxpayers are already over-burdened!

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