STEM is a curriculum based
on the idea of educating
students in four specific
disciplines — science,
and mathematics — in an
interdisciplinary and applied
approach based on real-
Our primary goal is to prepare
our students to succeed in an
increasingly STEM-driven environ-
ment and global economy.
Thanks to a generous grant of
$100,000 from the Richard
Lounsbery Foundation, PCS has
developed a STEM curriculum
as part of our Middle and Upper
As part of the School’s Second Century STEM Initiative, our Math and Science Departments have been developing curriculum to deepen the experience in science and math of every student regardless of their possible careers and that create greater opportunity for those students who may pursue STEM careers.
The Science Department has determined that problem-based learning should be a focus for our curriculum with an emphasis on real world experiments, problem-based design, group work and collaboration, as well as technology and engineering.
Here are just a few lessons and units, which highlight the work our students are doing in the classroom:
Mr. Rodd’s The Upper School Conceptual Physics class (above) discussed the parameters of aerodynamics related to a paper airplane (lift, drag, thrust, and weight). They then made various types of paper airplanes, testing them in the gym to determine which plane could fly the farthest and for the longest time. The class also discussed free fall due to gravity and calculated each student's reaction time. Students were able to relate this to common ideas like applying the breaks in a car as related to reaction time.
Ms. Nauholnyk’s 6th and 7th Grade Science class (above) has been learning about engineering and design. Over several weeks, students have been investigating different bridges and their importance for connecting people to resources and places. They have looked at key science concepts such as tension and compression as well as investigated the calculations that go into designing bridges. Currently, students are designing and building their own innovative bridges based on the concepts that we have studied. Part of the second semester will be dedicated to Robotics and Coding.
Biodiversity is hard to show students if you live in an urban environment like New York City. To bring an ecosystem into a classroom, Ms. Wong’s Advanced Biology Class has set up an aquarium filled with pond water from Central Park. This sample also included aquatic plants, rocks, dirt, and sediment. From this acquarium, students can study snail life cycle and record the different types of protozoans, nematodes, and crustaceans as well as diatoms, blue green algae, and other autotrophs.
In order to see all these organisms, students use a light microscope. Each student is assigned their own microscope so they can practice using the different magnifications as well as light intensities. Using their iPhones, they are required to take pictures of each type of microscopic organism they encounter.
These technological tools help compile a series of pictures of organisms found. At the end of the week, the pictures are printed out and put together to form a food web. Along with identification of each organism, students need to research diet and life cycle as well. Resources include reaching out to scientists via social media platforms such as Instagram and Twitter and the researcher’s websites.
Coming up in the second semester, the Dr. Byre-Tyre’s Upper School Biology class will once again learn about DNA uses in the real world through hands-on applications conducted in both our Science lab and the Sackler Lab of the Museum of Natural History. Students will complete a gel electrophoresis lab, learning how DNA fragments move across the gel based upon size and charge. They will complete a 2-hour extended DNA lab at the Sackler Lab, testing foods for genetic modification (DNA extracted, amplified through the PCR reaction, and analysis through gel electrophoresis).
We have a wonderful group of teachers dedicated to enhancing Science, Technology and Math within our curriculum and our students are excited about what they are learning. There is much more to follow. -- Dania Nauholnyk