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January 20, 2020
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Schools

Westchester's future workforce, fifth-graders at Mount Kisco Elementary School learned about sustainable energy by making solar panels with LEGOs. Photo Credit: Courtesy of Bedford Central School District
Students at Mount Kisco Elementary School work together to build solar panels with LEGOs. Photo Credit: Courtesy of Bedford Central School District
Learning about renewable energy by building solar panels with LEGOs at Mount Kisco Elementary School "will help build a sustainable future for their children," William Hunter noted. Photo Credit: Courtesy of Bedford Central School District

What's Driving STEM Education In Westchester? Jobs, Of Course!

More than 800 jobs come up when you type "STEM and Westchester" in the search fields on Indeed. They range from teacher to entry-level security work to research and development analysts—with most citing you need a STEM degree. 

The county's future workforce depends on the quality of its science, technology, engineering and math education. That is why a simple hands-on exercise in a Bedford Central School District fifth grade classroom was so important.

Not only did peers work on solving an environmental challenge in a real-world way, but they also got a glimpse of life as a potential career choice as an engineer.

These young "adults of tomorrow" need well-honed STEM knowledge and skills to be our future workforce, said the workshop's organizers. 

The students built solar panels from LEGOs then attached them to battery packs so they "actually spun," said Marj Santos, the managing director at the local Bricks 4 Kidz franchise which ran the workshop through a school partnership.

First, the students learned the basics of how energy works and the importance of sustainability, then worked on their small prototypes.

Making the lesson fun engages children, Santos stresssed. 

"It’s an opportunity for students to learn, build and play simultaneously." 

She noted the additional lessons in organization, teamwork and hand-eye coordination as beneficial.

"The key to success in STEM is student engagement," the district's William Hunter agreed.

"Programs like Bricks 4 Kids naturally engage students because the problems they are trying to solve are authentic, real-world problems. Building excitement for learning science, technology, engineering and math will set our students on a path to continue exploring these fields as they move on to middle school and high school," he explained.

Parents might wish to continue the lessons at home. "By learning more about renewable (energy) resources" because "it will help build a sustainable future for their children," Hunter noted.

Why is this important? "Our students are the adults of tomorrow and will be inheriting the world we leave them," said Hunter.

“I liked how it spun,” López Morales said. “If they were small, it spun really fast. If they were big, they spun really slowly," the fifth-grader added.

Mount Kisco Elementary School is part of the Bedford Central School District which covers Bedford, Mount Kisco, Pound Ridge, New Castle and North Castle and serves almost 4,000 children.