Weekly Feature

2018-09-12 / Front Page

Herschell Carrousel Factory Museum awarded $190K to create STEM camp

by ALAN RIZZO Editor

Hahin Hahin North Tonawanda’s Herschell Carrousel Factory Museum is among 17 organizations that have been chosen to participate in STEM 2035, a $5.5 million initiative created by the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation aimed at improving after-school and summer science, technology, engineering and math programs for children in grades six through 12.

A total of 11 organizations in Western New York have been chosen to participate, which, along with counterparts in southeast Michigan, will receive up to $250,000 in grant funding over three years to expand programs focused on middle and high school girls and other groups that are underrepresented in the science, technology, engineering and math fields.

Megan Hahin, executive director of the Carousel Society of the Niagara Frontier, said last week that the museum has received $196,300 in grant funding to create a STEM-focused summer camp for middle school-aged children, which will include opportunities to conduct experiments on carousels and do coding work on organs once used with amusement rides.

“We have band organ equipment that uses rolls that have to be coded, so they’ll get to kind of have some music lessons that have science background to them,” Hahin said.

The grant funding will also allow the museum to hire a full-time STEM 2035 educator, who will actively recruit students for the camp at after school programs at the North Tonawanda Youth Center and a Saturday academy program run by Say Yes Buffalo in Buffalo Public Schools.

Hahin said the goal of the camp and outreach is to expose students to work in STEM fields that they would not otherwise consider, such as engineering amusement rides.

“We really want to make sure that the funding goes back into the community and that we can do as much outreach with it as possible, so we can help students be excited about potential careers in STEM,” she said.

Amber Slichta, vice president of programs for the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation, said the goal of the STEM 2035 initiative is to create pathways that equip young leaders for STEM careers both now and for the long term, so that there are no gaps in opportunity.

“There are obvious gaps that prevent underrepresented groups from pursuing STEM in their education, careers and training,” Slichta said in a prepared statement. “Through this initiative, we hope to fill these gaps and better prepare the next generation’s workforce.”

In addition to receiving funding for programs, organizations chosen by the foundation will be part of the STEM 2035 peer learning community, through which they will be able to try new evaluation tools and quality improvement strategies, as well as collaborate and learn together.

They will also receive technical assistance, program assessments and support from the Partnerships in Education and Resilience Institute at Harvard University, a subject matter expert in after school STEM programs. Gil Noam, founder and director of the PEAR Institute, considered the foundation’s initiative and after-school programming important to fostering student interest in STEM concepts.

“Young people have a bright future in science, technology, engineering and math fields, but we have to rigorously support them to engage, gain knowledge and develop skills,” Noam said in a prepared statement. “Too many students lose interest right at the time when they should get excited and committed. The after-school field has shown great potential to contribute to STEM learning in creative and hands-on ways.”

Other organizations in Western New York that were chosen to take part in the STEM 2035 initiative include the Buffalo Maritime Center, Buffalo Museum of Science, Challenger Learning Center of Lockport, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Wyoming County, Dream It Do It WNY, Manufacturers Association of the Southern Tier, Mission Ignite, Portville Central School, the Wellsville Central School District, Westminster Economic Development Initiative and the YMCA of Greater Rochester.

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