Kennett students get huge boost with STEM training – Daily Local
When I went to engineering school at Penn State in the 60s, half (500) of my freshman engineering classmates failed because they didn’t know what it took to to be an engineer. The joke was that they were in pre-business. In a very real sense, this was our “first rodeo” and we didn’t know what we were getting into. It was an expensive way to fail.
So the Kennett Consolidated School District (KCSD) is taking a different approach to preparing future engineers for success today than they did in 19
In interviews for our book, “The Kennett Story,” retired superintendent Dr. Bosley spoke about the quality of the school’s offerings. He said that, for sports, you can have a high school team, or you can have “a program.” Schools with “one curriculum” tend to visit states more often. They have Pop Warner Football, Travel Football or Volleyball Club to access kids early and start developing their skills.
The same can be said about Kennett’s STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) program. These aren’t just courses students take in high school, but rather 12 years of intentional project-based learning that takes them to a higher level of mastery.
Dr Bosley said every child has a “hot button” and it’s our job to find it. There are so many things that young people are passionate about today and STEM is certainly one of them.
Jeff Powell was the first Kennett Middle School (KMS) staff member to be specially trained as a Project Lead the Way certified STEM teacher. Then Jillian Bonacquisti was recruited and also trained to become certified to teach the program.
For this article, I recently interviewed Bonacquisti on a Zoom call and it was hard to believe she was in a classroom. The modern space has electronic whiteboards and 3D printers.
As for Bonacquisti herself, I have rarely met a person with such enthusiasm and energy for a subject. She started by helping me understand that at every level, creating hands-on learning experiences takes an entire village.
For example, KCSD parent, Dr. Tanya Burns, and her son, James Burns, have created the Battle Bots club that will be housed in elementary schools.
KMS is home to the First Lego League (FLL) Club, funded by philanthropist and former KCSD mother Lynne Seligman. She supported the FLL Club on a competitive level for almost two decades.
Now in its first year, the KMS FTC Robotics Team would not be successful without funding from the Kennett Education Foundation (KEF) and the volunteer hours of parent coaches Mike Sauder and Simon Welch. They even team up with Unionville High School’s Two Eyed Illuminati Team10098, their coach Natalia Duchini and her family.
In addition to founding the FTC Robotics team, Bonacquisti received support from KCSD senior student Curie Chas in the charter of the KMS chapter of “Girls Who Code. “The national organization teaches students to use HTML, CSS, java, psj5 and python coding languages. It is available for all students to join After-the-Bell, a volunteer-based enrichment program long been organized in Middle School. There are very few chapters in Chester County. The closest is Great Valley Middle School and after that you have Bryn Mawr College and Villanova.
Dawn Doherty Kohl, who runs After the Bell, is instrumental in bringing other professionals to KMS to introduce related topics like coding for drones.
All of these opportunities provide a natural progression for students from Kennett Middle School to Kennett High School (KHS), where they can join the FRC robotics team and the Society of Women Engineers. Molly Hohner, a senior at Kennett High School, received the “Kennett Story” award when she launched the latter after being the only woman in a high school engineering class.
The pandemic has been a double-edged sword for KCSD’s STEM program. On the one hand, we lost many volunteers and momentum as everyone headed home for quarantine. On the other hand, students were then required to use technology to access their education. And, once out, impossible to put the toothpaste back in the tube.
On the evening of April 20, Kennett Middle School will host a Grade 5 Parents Night. Students and their families are invited to get their own glimpse into the future by exploring next year’s activities! For more details, please visit kcsd.org.
“The Kennett Story – Shaping the Future One Child at a Time” Bob George and Joan Holliday’s book on Kennett can be purchased on Amazon and at the Mushroom Cap or Resale Book Shoppe in Kennett. You can contact Bob at [email protected]