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STEM program

Photo from SCCC

A nearly $1.5 million grant awarded to Suffolk County Community College will help the college increase the number of low-income, academically talented Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) students who graduate, transfer to a four-year STEM program, or directly enter the STEM workforce.

The Improved Support for Undergraduates in Community College Engaged in STEM Studies (I-SUCCESS) Grant will allow the College to scale up and boost existing resources, developing new student support and cohort-building opportunities, and help students financially.

“Creating a new generation of talented STEM professionals is not just an economic need, it is also a social need. By eliminating barriers facing students who wish to be exposed to STEM, we can broaden the students’ economic opportunities and empower them as agents of change in our communities,” said Suffolk County Community College President Dr. Edward Bonahue.

“Suffolk County Community College has a well-known and respected STEM program,” said Professor Sean Tvelia, the project’s director.  “The additional academic resources, proactive mentoring, and student-centered approach provided through this program will increase success amongst our STEM students,” he said. Tvelia said that students who actively participate in I-SUCCESS will, in many cases, be better prepared for professional careers than students at four-year universities. For those students seeking transfer to four-year colleges and universities, the program also provides networking opportunities, transfer panels, and the ability to meet and work with university faculty.

Tvelia, Professors Richa Rawat Prakash and Joseph Napolitano say the program will support 18 new and 16 continuing students each year with financial support averaging about $10,000 from program entry to graduation.

The $1,499,296 I-SUCCESS grant will provide scholarships; introduce a mentoring program, with faculty positioned strategically across campuses and within STEM disciplines to serve as role models and advisors; increase opportunities for engagement and through remote and in-person activities; make more accessible, discipline-specific faculty tutoring to augment existing support, and provide internship and job coaching to supplement existing career services for STEM careers in the regional workforce and high-impact practices proven effective at promoting retention and transfer, including authentic research experiences and publication and presentation opportunities, will be augmented with opportunities for workforce internships.

Since the 2016-17 academic year, unmet financial need among undergraduates pursuing STEM degrees at Suffolk has increased by approximately 38%.  The I-SUCCESS project includes scholarships totaling $900,900 over 6 years plus $13,800 to support student summer research travel expenses to help address this unmet need.

The project is slated to begin on October 1, 2022.

Students interested in applying to the I-SUCCESS program can visit the college’s I-SUCCESS website, https://www.sunysuffolk.edu/stem/nfs-i-success/ or may contact Professor Sean Tvelia at [email protected].


The STEM Partnership between the Town of Smithtown and Smithtown School District continued at Accompsett Middle School, with sixth grade science students. On Thursday, January 27th and Friday January 28th, sixth grade science students in all eight classes met in the school’s library for an exciting water quality presentation and aquifer demonstration. The presentation covered a variety of environmental protection lessons, geared towards protecting

Long Island’s sole source aquifer. Students learned where Smithtown’s water comes from, threats to the natural resource, and how to protect the groundwater for future generations.

“This was the third topic covered as part of our STEM partnership with the school district and it was a huge success. The students were already very knowledgeable, asked very smart questions, and were so engaged that they didn’t want to leave, even after the bell rang for the next period. Further, we’ve already received calls from local civic groups requesting the presentation be given to adults within the community. What originally began as a unique real-world learning opportunity, has evolved into a larger movement, encouraging residents of all ages to be more proactive in caring for our natural resources and ecosystem.” – Supervisor Ed Wehrheim

The presentation began with asking students to discuss the water cycle, followed by where drinking water on Long Island comes from. A model demonstrating the Upper Glacial, Magothy, and Lloyd Aquifers, the famous layer of clay beneath the Magothy, water tables, natural streams, bodies of water and wastewater infrastructure was then used to illustrate how groundwater can become contaminated. The class was presented with a lesson on threats to our water supply, and emerging contaminants (PFOS,PFOA and 1 4 dioxane.) Worksheets listing household products containing harmful ingredients paired with a list of environmentally friendly alternatives, easily found in grocery stores were later distributed. Each teacher received digital copies of the worksheets, tips on how to help keep stormwater runoff from polluting waterways, and the 2022 recycling calendar which offers additional advice, a list of free services, and dates for the Hazardous Household Waste collection events to share at home

Plans for a second lesson in the Spring will involve nitrogen pollution, and natural remedies to stormwater runoff like Bioswales, which remove debris and pollution while preventing flooding. The recently completed Meadow Road Stormwater Remediation bioswale is located at the entrance to Accompsett Middle School, which will provide an excellent opportunity for students to observe Mother Nature’s solution to stormwater pollution.

The sixth grade water quality presentation was coordinated by Accompsett ELA/Science teacher Amy Olander, Director of Science K-12 Edward Casswell, Town Supervisor Ed Wehrheim and his office team; PIO Nicole Garguilo and Community Relations Assistant Brian Farrell. Expert support was provided by Environmental Director David Barnes, and Smithtown & St. James Water Superintendent Chris Nustad.

The STEM Partnership gives students a hands-on approach to real world environmental issues affecting the community. Students apply lesson plans in the branches of science to discover potential solutions. Topics covered in the program include solid waste & recycling, invasive species, stormwater runoff, nitrogen pollution and water quality. At every stage of the partnership, the Town and School district work in tandem to help students uncover solutions to each real world quandary. The Town of Smithtown hopes to expand this program to all local school districts who are interested in this unique learning opportunity.

Three Village elementary students learn coding with Bee-Bots. Photo from Three Village Central School District

By Andrea Paldy

Whether it is a demonstration from the high school robotics team or honoring 2018 Regeneron Science Talent Search Scholars, recent school board meetings have been a venue to showcase the vast strides the Three Village School District continues to make in science, technology, engineering and math instruction and enrichment.

In recent months, the district’s teachers and information specialists have given presentations explaining how they are helping to prepare students from elementary through high school for the brave new world that’s theirs.

The spotlight is put on the elementary STEM curriculum and the district’s library services. These demonstrate the way Three Village integrates technology into the curriculum as a unit of study, while also using it as a tool for research and growth in other academic disciplines.

Three Village embarked on the first year of its elementary STEM program in the fall of 2015, just as President Barack Obama (D) was signing the STEM Education Act into law. The curriculum, which introduces elementary-aged students to concepts such as aeroponics, coding and robotics, also teaches them about engineering and design.

Speaking at a school board meeting in November, Setauket Elementary’s STEM teacher Gina Varacchi explained how design challenges are embedded into the program to teach students about the design process. Students are given a design goal along with guidelines and constraints, she said. Similar to the scientific method, students must follow certain steps as part of the process. After determining “the problem” and conducting research, they can begin to design, but most important is that students experiment with their design through old-fashioned trial and error. Varacchi said that not only do they learn problem-solving skills, they also learn persistence.

Three Village students learn coding with Bee-Bots. Photo from Three Village Central School District

Design projects range from physical construction of marble tracks and bridges to using the online program Tinkercad to design 3D sculptures and containers for 3D printing. Students also learn coding for robots — Bee-Bots for kindergarten through second grade, and Ozobots for third and fourth grade. Additional STEM units include building with littleBits circuits, as well as coding with Scratch.

The district goes further in supporting students’ technological literacy. R.C. Murphy Junior High School information specialist and district library head Betsy Knox said at January’s meeting that the library departments put an emphasis “on teaching information and inquiry skills to students and collaborating with teachers on planning appropriate lessons on research.”

To achieve this mission, the libraries offer Lightbox, a web-based system that provides supplementary lessons in English language arts, science and social studies. It also includes supporting materials such as videos, primary documents, interviews and articles, Knox said. The district has 74 different units that are also accessible to students at home.

Additionally, media specialists help to design curriculum that includes research projects with suggested resources or team-teach lessons on developing thesis statements and providing research-based evidence for support. Nicole Connelly, information specialist at P.J. Gelinas Junior High, said this helps to give students the skills they need to navigate systems to “make informed decisions and become critical thinkers.”

In addition to providing maker spaces and experiences with virtual reality, the district’s libraries, or “information centers,” teach internet safety and provide instruction in online behavior from kindergarten to 12th grade. Ward Melville’s information specialist April Hatcher said the curriculum on “digital citizenship” for grades six through 12 was recently updated and covers cyberbullying, copyrights and plagiarism, social responsibility and identity protection. Lessons on hate speech are also addressed in the high school curriculum, she said.

The district’s media specialists not only support educators with research and curriculum, but also with technology. The library service department has recently submitted grant applications for drones, digital cameras and an outdoor classroom.

But, said Allyson Konczynin information specialist at W.S. Mount Elementary School, even with growing focus on technology, emphasis is still being placed on book selection and literature appreciation.

“Nothing beats seeing a student light up with excitement when they find a book they love,” she said.